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Past and 

Tagus Press 

Center for Portuguese Studies and Culture 

University of Massachusetts Dartmouth 
Portuguese Literary & Cultural Studies (plcs) 27 

Joao Cezar de Castro Rocha, Editor in Chief 


Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht (Stanford University) 

Jose Lufs Jobim (Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro / 

Universidade Federal Fluminense) 

Maria Alzira Seixo (Universidade de Lisboa) 


Vitor Manuel de Aguiar e Silva (Universidade do Minho) 

Gonzalo Aguilar (Universidade de Buenos Aires) 

Luiz Felipe de Alencastro (Universidade de Paris-Sorbonne) 

Maria Aparecida Ferreira de Andrade Salgueiro 
(Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro) 

Vincenzo Arsillo (Universidade de Veneza) 

Dario Borim (University of Massachusetts Dartmouth) 

Flavio Carneiro (Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro) 

Patricio Ferrari (Universidade de Lisboa) 

Ana Paula Ferreira (University of Minnesota) 

Kenneth David Jackson (Yale University) 

Anna M. Klobucka (University of Massachusetts Dartmouth) 

Johannes Kretschmer (Universidade Federal Fluminense) 

Alexander Luz (Universidade Federal Rural do Rio de Janeiro) 

Nataniel Ngomane (Universidade Eduardo Mondlane) 

Horst Nitschack (Universidade do Chile) 

Marcus Vinicius Nogueira Soares (Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro) 
Carlinda Fragale Pate Nunez (Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro) 

Rita Olivieri-Godet (Universidade de Rennes II) 

Carmen Villarino Pardo (Universidade de Santiago de Compostela) 

Rodrigo Petronio (Poet, Essayist — FAAP — Fundagao Armando Alvares 

Isabel Pires de Lima (Universidade do Porto) 

Jeronimo Pizarro (Universidade de los Andes) 

Andrea Portolomeos (Universidade Federal de Lavras-MG) 

Valdir Prigol (Universidade Federal da Fronteira Sul) 

Roberto Acizelo Quelha de Sousa (Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro) 
Sonia Netto Salomao (Universidade de Roma) 

Nelson Schapochinik (Universidade de Sao Paulo) 

Boaventura de Sousa Santos (Universidade de Coimbra) 

Carlos Mendes de Sousa (Universidade do Minho) 

Maria de Sousa Tavares (Universidade de Macau) 

Alva Martinez Teixeiro (Universidade de Lisboa) 

Jose Leonardo Tonus (Universidade de Paris-Sorbonne) 

Sandra Guardini Teixeira Vasconcelos (Universidade de Sao Paulo) 

Jobst Welge (Universidade de Constanga) 

Valqufria Wey (Universidade Nacional Autonoma do Mexico) 

Regina Zilberman (Pontiffcia Universidade Catolica do Rio Grande do Sul) 


Rodrigo Petronio (Poet, Essayist — FAAP — Fundagao Armando Alvares 


Fronteiras/Borders (plcs i) 

Edited by Victor K. Mendes, Paulo 
de Medeiros, and Jose N. Ornelas 
Lidia Jorge in other words / por outras 
palauras (plcs 2) 

Edited by Claudia Pazos Alonso 
Pessoa’s Alberto Caeiro (plcs 3) 

Edited by Victor K. Mendes 
[Out of Print] 

2001 Brazil: A Reuisionary History of 
Brazilian Literature and Culture 
(plcs 4/5) 

Edited by Joao Cezar de Castro 

On Saramago (plcs 6) 

Edited by Anna Klobucka 
A Repertoire of Contemporary Portuguese 
Poetry (plcs 7) 

Edited by Victor K. Mendes 
Cape Verde: Language, Literature & Music 
(plcs 8) 

Edited by Ana Mafalda Leite 
Post-Imperial Camdes (plcs 9) 

Edited by Joao R. Figueiredo 
Reevaluating Mozambique (plcs 10) 
Edited by Phillip Rothwell 
Vitorino Nemesio and the Azores (plcs ii) 
Edited by Francisco Cota Fagundes 
The Other Nineteenth Century (plcs 12) 
Edited by Kathryn M. Sanchez 
The Author as Plagiarist — The Case of 
Machado de Assis (plcs 13/14) 
Edited by Joao Cezar de Castro 

Remembering Angola (plcs 15/16) 
Edited by Phillip Rothwell 
Parts of Asia (plcs 17/18) 

Edited by Cristiana Bastos 
Facts and Fictions ojAnto'nio Lob 0 Antunes 
(plcs 19/20) 

Edited by Victor K. Mendes 
Garrett’s Travels Revisited (plcs 21/22) 
Edited by Victor K. Mendes and 
Valeria M. Souza 
Economies of Relation: Money and 
Personalism in the Lusophone World 
(plcs 23/24) 

Edited by Roger Sansi 
Lusofonia and Its Futures (plcs 25) 
Edited by Joao Cezar de Castro 

Literary Histones in Portuguese 
(plcs 26) 

Edited by Joao Cezar de Castro 

The South Atlantic, Past and Present 
(plcs 27) 

Edited by Luiz Felipe de 


Fernando Pessoa as English Reader & 
Writer (plcs 28) 

Edited by Jeronimo Pizarro & 
Patricio Ferrari 

Portuguese Literary & Cultural Studies is a multilingual interdisciplinary peer- 
reviewed journal published semi-annually by the Tagus Press in the Center for 
Portuguese Studies and Culture at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. 
The journal addresses the literatures and cultures of the diverse communities of 
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Past and 

Edited byLUiz felipe de ale n castro 

Tagus Press umass DARTMOUTH, Dartmouth, Massachusetts 

Portuguese Literary and Cultural Studies 27 
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5 4 3 ^1 


Editor’s Note xi 


Introduction: The Ethiopic Ocean — 

History and Historiography, 1600-1975 1 


The South Atlantic, Past and Present 

The Dutch and the Consolidation of the Seventeenth-Century 
South Atlantic Complex, c. 1630-1654 83 


Brazil and the Politics of the Spanish Habsburgs in the South Atlantic, 
1580-1640 104 


Linguistic Legacies and Postcolonial Identities in West Africa: 

Cape Verde, Senegal, and the Western World 121 


Germans and the South Atlantic: Political, Economic, 

and Military Aspects in Historical Perspective, 1507-1915 158 



“Escrever e para mim trabalho bragal”: Cabral’s “O cao sem plumas” 
and the Brazilian Consulate in Barcelona, 1947-1950 205 


Narrating the Past and Inventing the Future: Memory, History, 
and Narrative in Pedro Paramo and Terra Sonambula 222 


Mai de Mar: A Reading of Jorge de Sena’s “A Gra-Canaria” 
in (trans-)Atlantic Transit 235 


“Sertao Dentro”: The Bacldands in Early Modern Portuguese Writings 254 



marcio souza on Maria Jose da Silveira, Pauliceia de mil dentes: 
All the Injustice We Need 275 
Translated by Alexander Rezende Luz 
tom winterbottom on Bruno Carvalho, Porous City: 

A Cultural History of Rio de Janeiro 277 
richard simas on Patricia Portela 282 


Editor's Note 

This issue of Portuguese Literary and Cultural Studies is fortunate to rely on the ex- 
pertise of the internationally acclaimed historian Luiz Felipe de Alencastro for 
its monographic section, “The South Atlantic, Past and Present.” 

Indeed, Felipe de Alencastro published a groundbreaking book, 0 Trato dos 
Viuentes, in which he systematized his scholarship on the topic and crafted inno- 
vative lenses to understand the formation of Brazilian society. 

In his words: “‘Formation of Brazil in the South Atlantic’: the reader who has 
looked at the cover of the book might be intrigued by its subtitle. Does it mean 
that Brazil was formed outside Brazil? That is exactly the point: this is the histor- 
ical paradox that I am aiming at showing in the following pages.” 1 

Briefly, Alencastro argues that Brazilian colonial history should not be seen 
as either an extension of the colonial territory or a linear Hegelian progression 
toward independence from Portugal. After all, in Brazil, colonial history was 
mainly determined through its relationship with the zone of reproduction of 
slaves put forward by the Portuguese in Angola. Thus the colonial period wit- 
nessed, more than a “Brazilian” history, the emergence of a “space without ter- 
ritory, a lusophone archipelago composed by the enclaves of Portuguese America 
and of the trade posts of Angola.” 2 

The present issue of Portuguese Literary and Cultural Studies broadens the scope 
of Felipe de Alencastro’s thought-provoking work through the incorporation of 
ongoing research of distinguished scholars from several countries. It is there- 
fore our expectation that this issue will become an obligatory reference to any- 
one interested in the complex, multilayered, and transnational history of the 
“South Atlantic.” 

A final word on this issue: given the importance of its monographic section, 
and notably the remarkable introduction written by Felipe de Alencastro — in its 
own right, a full essay on the topic of the complex world created by the flux of 
bodies, commodities, and ideas through the South Atlantic, bringing together 
at least three continents — we decided to shorten the other sections of the jour- 
nal so that we could publish the monographic section in its integrity. Therefore, 



this time we will not present the section “Fiction and Interviews,” which will 
resume in the next issue of Portuguese Literary and Cultural Studies. 


1. Luiz Felipe de Alencastro, 0 Trato dos Viuentes: Forma^ao do Brasil no Atlantico Sul (Sao 
Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2000), 9. 

2. Alencastro, 0 Trato dos Viuentes. 



The Ethiopic Ocean — History 
and Historiography, 1600-1975 


abstract: Atlantic history is generally surveyed through the prism of the North 
Atlantic. Yet the South Atlantic had a distinct historical pattern through the Sailing 
Age. Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century maps and nautical guides, taking into ac- 
count the system of currents and winds under the meteorological equator, which is 
on the north side of the geometrical equator, called the southern part of the Atlan- 
tic the "Ethiopic Ocean/'This term helps to emphasize the singularity, the boundar- 
ies, and the periodization of South Atlantic history. Indeed, generations of missiolo- 
gist, colonial, and self-taught authors, as well as great and less great historians, 
researched such subjects.Their works depict a genealogy of the South Atlantic World 
that leads to a more diversified and perhaps more conclusive Atlantic history. 

keywords: Atlantic history, South Atlantic historiography, Ethiopic Ocean, slave 

The Atlantic, “a space which borrowed its past and was hastily constructed” 

— Fernand Braudel, “Pour une histoire serielle” 

Historical and Nautical Contours 

It is well known that sixteenth-century European cartographers described the 
South Atlantic as Mare Aethiopicum (1529), Oceano Australis or Meridionale 
(1550), and Mare Magnum Australe (1561). 1 Less well known is the major nauti- 
cal and historical network that stood within this geographical space for three 
hundred years. In modern atlases and charts, the subequatorial seas of western 
and eastern Africa bore the name of Oceanus Ethiopicus. 2 Later maps, like the 
influential Willem Blaeu’s 1606-1638 charts, assigned a different name for the 
eastern African seas. Thus, the Southern Atlantic remained the Oceanus Ethio- 



picus, as the eastern African seas were renamed Mar de India and, later, Indian 
Ocean. 3 

Over the Transatlantic Sailing Age routes followed currents generated by the 
South Atlantic Gyre, combining the westerly and southeasterly trade winds. 
Overreaching the geographical equator, this nautical system has its northeast- 
ern limits between 5 degrees and 10 degrees N. Such perimeters overlap the 
northern summer edge of the southeasterly trade winds and the Intertropical 
Convergence Zone, or doldrums, forming the meteorological equator, that is, 
the thermal and atmospheric division between the North and South Atlantic. 4 

Accordingly, several eighteenth- and nineteenth-century marine guides and 
maps embrace the sub-Saharan coast south of Senegambia into the South At- 
lantic Ocean. 5 Another chart, John Senex’s A Neiu Map, or Chart in Mercator’s Pro- 
jection of the Ethiopic Ocean . . ., an acknowledged 1763 map, displays the outsize 
limits of that part of the ocean. 6 Alongside “South Atlantic,” the name Ethiopic 
Ocean was employed until the end of the nineteenth century, the twilight of the 
Sailing Age, sketching this “basin” as a whole distinct system, an ocean in its 
own right, different from either the geographical division below the equator’s 
line or the North Atlantic. Most significantly, The American Cyclopaedia (1 873) des- 
ignates the North Atlantic as the “Atlantic proper.” 7 Some maps and guides 
plainly depicted two different Atlantic systems matching the two wheels of 

Why did the name Ethiopic Ocean encompass the greater part of the Atlan- 
tic? Why are such name and maritime boundaries mostly drawn in English and 
American charts from the mid-eighteenth to the mid-nineteenth century? 

Altogether, the intensification of the French and British slave trade in the 
eighteenth century improved the information on Atlantic currents and on the 
African coasts. Crisscrossing the doldrums more often, seamen closely observed 
the weather edges and currents variations around the equator. Vessels from 
Newport, Liverpool, or Nantes carrying enslaved from the Bight of Benin or the 
Bight of Biafra to the Caribbean crossed the doldrums twice, and there were 
higher mortality rates in the Middle Passage. 8 

Anglo-American whaling voyages through the North and South Atlantic also 
provided sailing evidence on the two Atlantic current’s system to the mapmak- 
ers and nautical guides. 9 Beyond a common knowledge of the Atlantic, whaling 
and slave-trading ships and crews sometimes mingled in nineteenth-century 
Brazilian and Cuban ports. 10 


the south Atlantic, past and present Luiz Felipe de Alencastro 

More than any other seafaring sailing activity, the migratory whaling de- 
manded a close understanding of the currents and seasonal variations of the 
seas. 11 Through the first decades of the nineteenth century, Nantucket spe- 
cialized in sperm whaling, a typically offshore sailing, while the American flag 
headed the world’s whaling business. 12 In his celebrated navigation book on the 
Atlantic currents published in 1832, James Rennell quotes the “Nantucket whal- 
ers” among his sources, just as other contemporary nautical authors did. 13 

Such circumstances may well explain the definition of the outsized northern 
limits of the Southern or Ethiopic Ocean depicted in the American and British 
eighteenth- and nineteenth-century maritime maps and guides. Not by chance, 
the obsolescence of the denotation “Ethiopic Ocean,” with its upper equatorial 
edges meeting the southeasterly trade wind, occurs at the close of Sailing Age 
and in the rise of whaling by steamships equipped with whale guns in the late 
nineteenth century. 

Meanwhile, Portuguese, Luso-Brazilian, and Luso-African seamen acquired 
intimate knowledge of routes between Brazil and Africa. Indeed, the presence 
of black seamen, sometimes enslaved, is a characteristic feature of the Luso- 
Brazilian slave trade that expanded over sub-Saharan ports. 14 Adding to the 
Senegambia and Gulf of Guinea shores, Luanda evolved into a significant slav- 
ing port as the Asiento de Negros found its way in West Central Africa at the turn 
of the seventeenth century. 

Bilateral trade from Rio de Janeiro, Bahia, and Pernambuco to Angola and, 
later, the Gulf of Guinea extended between the equator and the Tropic of Capri- 
corn. From southward, a portion of the Potosf’s silver and, later, tin exports 
sailed through Buenos Aires toward Brazilian ports. Paired with the African slave 
trade, those southward exchanges continued, legally or illegally, until 1850. 15 In 
the second half of the eighteenth century, the Amazon ports of Sao Luis and 
Belem connected north of equator to Guinea Bissau. Finally, Mozambique slave 
trade was “atlanticized” as it was driven to Rio de Janeiro at the turn of the nine- 
teenth century. These four main merchant networks generated around fifteen 
thousand round trips from Brazilian ports to Africa from 1550 through 1850. 16 

Sixteenth- and seventeenth-century authors such as the French navigator Py- 
rard, the Portuguese friar Vicente do Salvador, and the planter and merchant 
Ambrosio Fernandes Brandao reported the routes linking Brazilian ports to An- 
gola. 17 However, accurate nautical descriptions of such travels are uncommon. 
In his Rutter [Roteiro], written during the Iberian Union, the royal cosmographer 





Antonio Mariz de Carneiro, like Manoel de Figueiredo before him, describes the 
sailing between Lisbon, Rio de Janeiro, and the Rio de La Plata as standard voy- 
ages. Yet neither cosmographer mentioned the existing bilateral crossing from 
Bahia, Pernambuco, and Rio de Janeiro, and occasionally Buenos Aires, to An- 
gola. 18 Surely heuristic knowledge played a key role in the Atlantic World, where 
navigation was simpler than the round trip between Portugal and India, which 
covered eighteen thousand to twenty thousand miles in different seas. 19 

Notwithstanding, the first known description of the south-south routes, by 
Jose Antonio Caldas, appeared in 1759. A cartographer and engineer born and 
raised in Salvador de Bahia, Caldas sojourned at Sao Tome Island and sailed back 
and forth from Bahia to the Gulf of Guinea registering nautical information. 20 
In 1802 another Luso-Brazilian cartographer, Jose Fernandes Portugal, published 
a South Atlantic map detailing nautical parameters from the Brazilian ports to 
the Rio de la Plata and the ports of Benguela and Luanda. 21 Not until 1832 — 
much later than the studies on North Atlantic seafaring — did the full description 
and maps of the South Atlantic surface currents by James Rennell come out. 22 

Arguably, the decentralization and the Brazilianization of the south-south 
exchanges obscured their framework. The same can be said for the Africans 
illegally carried to the Rio de la Plata. As Eltis and Davidson observed, the South 
Atlantic exchanges, which form the larger slave-trading network, are the less 
well known by Atlantic historians. 23 

In fact, from 1556 until 1850, Atlantic South America, including Brazilian 
and Rio de la Plata ports, received 4,970,000 enslaved people, mostly carried 
under Portuguese and Brazilian-flagged ships. Brazil was the main destination 
of enslaved in the Americas: 4,864,000 Africans, 43 percent of all the Atlantic 
slave trade, disembarked there. 24 The longest and most intense forced migra- 
tion of the modern era took place below the equator. 

As noted earlier, another key difference between the North Atlantic and the 
South Atlantic is the bilateral trade prevailing between Africa and Brazilian ports 
and, to a lesser extent, Rio de la Plata ports. As a result, 95 percent of the ships 
carrying Africans to Brazil left Brazil’s ports loaded with locally produced or 
reexported European and Asian goods. As Eltis and Richardson have shown, 
between 1501 and 1867 more slaving trade voyages were organized in Rio de 
Janeiro and Bahia than in any other port in the Atlantic. 25 

Brazilian ports shipped cassava flour and cowry to Angola and Congo begin- 
ning around the end of the sixteenth century. 26 Through Rio de Janeiro or di- 


the south Atlantic, past and present Luiz Felipe de Alencastro 

rectly from Buenos Aires, the Potosi silver arrived into the hands of slave mer- 
chants in Luanda. In the second half of the seventeenth century sugarcane rum 
(called jeribita in Angola and cachaga in Brazil) started to be dispatched to West 
Central Africa and occasionally to the Slave Coast. 27 In practice, exports of Per- 
nambuco and Bahia tobacco outweighed exchanges with the Gulf of Guinea, 
and specifically with the Slave Coast, from the 1670s onward. 28 Together, Bra- 
zilian exports of jeribita and tobacco purchased around 48 percent of the 
2,587,937 Africans who disembarked in Brazil between 1701 and 1810. 29 Taking 
into account an unknown quantity of horses, leather, manioc, maize, sugar, and 
dried and cured meats and fish exported to African ports, as well as the smug- 
gling of eighteenth-century gold and diamonds, Brazilian goods arguably ac- 
quired more than half of the Africans introduced into Portuguese America. 30 

Nautical and trade circumstances enabled Portuguese and Luso-Brazilian 
ships to overcome European competitors in West Central Africa. Adverse winds 
and longer routes to the Angolan coast made vessels from western and northern 
Europe sail generally to alternate ports northward, toward the Congo estuary 
and beyond. 

Praising such meteorological determinants, the prominent lesuit mission- 
ary and diplomat Antonio Vieira interpreted the easy sailing between Brazil and 
Angola as a demonstration of the divine will — or, in other words, as the sense of 
the South Atlantic colonization. Preaching in Bahia in the 1680s, he proclaimed: 
“Some great mystery exists in this transmigration, ... so singularly favored and 
assisted by God, for [the voyages] . . . that pull those people from their coun- 
tries to bring them to the practices of the captivity, are always with stern wind 
and without changing tack.” Like other Portuguese officials and missionaries 
of his time, Father Vieira justified the slave traffic as a stage in their evangeliza- 
tion. Once extracted from hostile and heathen African villages, the enslaved 
could be converted and their souls saved in the colonial enclaves of Portuguese 
America. 31 

Why emphasize Fr. Antonio Vieira’s role? First, his sermons and political 
writings had a long-lasting influence. Like many other authors, Charles Boxer 
maintains that Vieira “was certainly the most remarkable man in the seven- 
teenth-century Luso-Brazilian world.” 32 Second, the Jesuits’ doctrine on the 
slave trade and black slavery is critical insofar as they were the only missionaries 
continuously present in Angola, from the last quarter of the sixteenth century 
until their expulsion from Portugal in 1759, adding to the great influence they 



exerted in Brazil during the same period. Therefore the Jesuits formed the core 
of the South Atlantic slave system. They were missionaries and slave owners 
on both shores of the ocean. It was up to them to morally validate the African’s 
enslavement and deportation. 

More so than in the Estado da India, trade and evangelization played com- 
plementary roles in the Portuguese Atlantic. Noted sixteenth- and seventeenth- 
century Portuguese charts of Africa such as those by Pero Fernandes (1525 and 
1527), Antonio Sanchez (1641), and Costa Miranda (1681) depict two major il- 
lustrations: the fortress of Sao Jorge de Mina, built by the Portuguese in 1482 
(Elmina, taken by the Dutch in 1637), a chief trade center of an area that was one 
of the main sources of the gold imported in Europe from 1500 to 1700, and the 
“church of Manicongo,” in Sao Salvador do Congo, which was, beginning in 
1596, the bishopric seat of the Congo and Angola diocese. 33 These were strong 
symbols of the Iberian overseas. Indeed, Sao Jorge da Mina’s fortress was the 
first European trading post in the sub-Saharan world, as Sao Salvador do Congo 
was the first episcopal see in continental Africa since the Muslim conquest of 
North Africa. 

Decisive events in the last decades of the eighteenth century and beginning 
of the nineteenth — the American Revolution, the Haitian Revolution, the Napo- 
leonic Wars, and the Ibero-American colonies’ emancipation — had rather dif- 
ferent effects in the North and South Atlantic. 

Usually, economic consequences of the Latin America country’s indepen- 
dence are summarized as a stopover change that led Liverpool to replace Cadiz 
and Lisbon as the main commercial port of the former Iberian colonies. 34 Nev- 
ertheless, the opening of direct trade between Brazil and England (1808) and, 
later, Brazil’s independence (1822) did not alter its entire colonial spatial ma- 
trix. Whereas Liverpool replaced Lisbon as the main Brazilian commerce port, 
Luanda retained second place in Brazil’s foreign exchanges. Despite the post- 
Vienna balance of power and the encroachment of the Royal Navy in the south- 
south trade, the Ethiopic Ocean’s historical context remains relevant until the 
middle of the nineteenth century as an essential trait of the Brazilian state build- 
ing among the new American countries. 

From 1808 until 1850, Brazil fostered the Atlantic slave trade in African ports 
forsaken by American and British vessels, drew the Mozambican trade into the 
Atlantic, and supported African inland traffic with reexported European merchan- 
dise. Stimulated by British finance and manufactured exports, Brazil demon- 


the south Atlantic, past and present Luiz Felipe de Aiencastro 

strated the viability of the slavery/slave trade system as a modern economy 
coupled with the Industrial Revolution. To be sure, Cuba had an equivalent slave 
system fed by African deportees. However, only independent Brazil’s conti- 
nentwide slavery economy, with its Luso-Brazilian maritime networks, could 
embrace and thrive across all sub-Saharan trading areas, sustaining a predatory 
economy on both shores of the South Atlantic. In the end, the Brazilian Crown 
invigorated slavery in its entire national territory and protected its slave traders 
with diplomats from a European-bred monarchy apt to defer the Foreign Office 
and Royal Navy’s interventionism in the South Atlantic. 

By doing so, the 1822 Brazilian independence thwarted the abolitionist and 
Republican principles aroused by the American, French, and Haitian Revolu- 
tions and thus embodied a genuine Atlantic counterrevolution. 35 

Subsequently, the close of the South Atlantic network generated a defining 
geopolitical transformation in 1850. Unlike other maritime networks within 
trading areas such as the Caribbean or the Indian Ocean, the South Atlantic 
bilateral exchanges did not unravel progressively in the face of new competitors 
or resume with different commodities. Rather, these maritime exchanges broke 
down abruptly and vanished under British diplomatic and naval coercion. From 
then onward, “Ethiopic Ocean” turned into an outdated name as the new inter- 
national division of labor precluded the south-south trade. 

Thenceforth, alluding to the South Atlantic emptiness after the end of the 
slave trade, a famed British nautical guide states in a 1883 introductory note 
absent from its previous editions: “A large portion of the coast lying within the 
Southern tropics, and the absolutely barren nature of its eastern side, render 
the commerce in this vast area of water of very small importance compared with 
other seas of equal magnitude.” 36 

One century later, in the aftermath of African’s countries decolonization, in 
an utterly diverse geopolitical context, bilateral relations between postcolonial 
sub-Saharan countries and South America resumed. Policy makers, global trad- 
ers, military strategists, and editorialists, as well as community leaders, artists, 
and academics, now ponder the present and the future of the South Atlantic, 
underlining the distinctions between the two hemispheres. A recent joint report 
from the World Bank and the Institute for Applied Economic Research, a Brazil- 
ian agency, describes the South Atlantic “as a channel of cultural transfers or 
political and social experiences, rather than as a geopolitical ocean like the North 
Atlantic” — an arguable description. 37 


These considerations lead to a notional inference. There are no long-term en- 
during structures or original elements — a “longue duree” movement — encom- 
passing the area in both past and present. Although some authors, including 
myself, have portrayed the subequatorial interchanges as a “South Atlantic sys- 
tem,” it would be more appropriate to call the transactions shaded by commu- 
nities and political entities in this part of the ocean a “South Atlantic network .” 38 
Yet because this article focuses on the maritime space known in the sixteenth to 
nineteenth centuries as the “Ethiopic Ocean,” I shall utilize that term to design 
this geohistorical aggregate . 39 

Distinctive from the holistic conceptions of Atlantic history, such a denota- 
tion provides a framework for the specificities and the periodization discussed 
in the following sections. Equally, it facilitates reviewing prior works often ne- 
glected by current proponents of Atlantic history. Likewise, conceptions on the 
past and present of the African countries changed profoundly in the postcolo- 
nial era. Therefore, except for some essays related to Atlantic history, this article 
discusses events and historiography previous to the independence of Angola in 
^ 975 - 

Noting the growing academic trend toward Atlantic history, David Armitage 
observed rather ironically, “We are all Atlanticists now.” Going back in time, 
John Russell-Wood mentioned historians who “unconsciously or not” studied 
the subject . 40 

Regarding these reflections, the notion of Ethiopic Ocean may contribute to 
make Atlantic history more complex and, perhaps, more conclusive. 

The South Atlantic Anomaly 

Seafaring and historic evidence underpins the proposition that the Ethiopic 
Ocean stands out in conventional Atlantic history . 41 However, despite its past 
and present significance, there is not a recognized field of scholarship in social 
sciences pertaining to South Atlantic studies. 

Some years ago, a vivid and stimulating debate on us African American 
and African Studies, Pan-Africanism, Afrocentrism, and different issues related 
to area studies only incidentally quoted the need to include Brazil and Afro- 
Brazilians in such research . 42 

Such an oversight, shared by notable specialists of Atlantic history, is hardly 
a coincidence. As a matter of fact, a common historiographical assumption 


the south Atlantic, past and present Luiz Felipe de Alencastro 

holds that the North Atlantic, including the Caribbean, subsumes the entire At- 
lantic history — a postulation that derives from nineteenth-century theories on 
merchant capital regarding England and the British empire as the overcomer of 
national and colonial stages previously performed by other European countries. 

As Marx asserted in Capital, “The different momenta of primitive accumula- 
tion distribute themselves now, more or less in chronological order, particularly 
over Spain, Portugal, Holland, France, and England. In England at the end of the 
17th century, they arrive at a systematical combination, embracing the colonies, 
the national debt, the modern mode of taxation, and the protectionist system.” 43 

For his part, Max Weber created his own chronological and categorical dis- 
tinction among the modern colonial powers, regarding the Portuguese and the 
Spanish colonial systems as related to the “feudal type” while their Dutch and 
the English counterparts were otherwise “capitalistic.” 44 

Premises of England’s development as a “systematical combination” of other 
European empires influenced as well the periodization of Atlantic history, inso- 
far as the historiography emphasizes the 1807 English and American Abolition 
Acts. Eric Williams’s Capitalism and Slavery (1944) and his appraisals of the 
“triangular trade” — a characterization he contributed to promoting — as well 
as on American and British debates on abolitionism, oriented the discussions 
among postwar historians. Even though Williams stressed the growth of the 
African’s deportation to Brazil and Cuba after the 1807 abolitions, only in recent 
decades has research provided evidence that beyond the North Atlantic — the 
“Atlantic proper” — the South Atlantic network also existed. 45 In any case, with 
the “Williams debate” as its counterpart, the “Drescher debate” centers on the 
North Atlantic and consigns the nineteenth-century South Atlantic slave trade to 
secondary-issue status. 

Several circumstances overshadowed the South Atlantic’s geohistorical spec- 
ificity. First, there is of course the historical namesake above the equator de- 
scribing the us southern states that is the standard reference to the term at the 
Library of Congress. 46 Thus concerning the southern United States and Jamai- 
can slave societies as well as their spatial economic specialization, Philip Curtin 
elaborated in 1955 the first conceptual framing of a historical “South Atlantic 
system.” 47 Later Curtin abandoned this concept, proposing the notion of “plan- 
tation complex” to encompass the tropical slavery regions north and south of 
the equator. 48 



Inspired by those reflections, another categorization was issued in a widely 
accepted textbook on American history. Accordingly, James A. Henretta and David 
Brody defined a “South Atlantic system” that included Brazilian and West Indies 
sugarcane slavery. 49 

Yet two essential albeit divergent books on Atlantic history, Bernard Bailyn’s 
Atlantic History: Concept and Contours (2005) and Paul Gilroy’s Black Atlantic (1993), 
omit the South Atlantic network in the same way, focusing on the Northern 
Hemisphere as a broader framework for the whole Atlantic history. 

Since 1955, Bernard Bailyn has published extensively on Atlantic history. He 
formed two generations of historians and conducts an influential Harvard sem- 
inar on Atlantic history issues. 50 His book scrutinizes the changes in Atlantic 
historiography through the world wars and the Cold War. As reviewers ob- 
served, he focuses mostly on the eighteenth century and the British and Anglo- 
American dimensions of Atlantic history, disregarding the Haitian Revolution, 
African history, and the deportation of Africans to the Americas. 51 His single 
reference to a “South Atlantic” space retook Curtin’s earlier formulation con- 
cerning the southern us states and Jamaica. 52 

Bailyn’s analysis of the evolution of ideas on Atlantic history and an Atlantic 
World is telling. The book helps us understand the enduring conception of the 
North Atlantic as a civilizational unity — a theme surfacing time and again at 
the geopolitical sphere, as is shown in the ongoing negotiations on the Trans- 
atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (tti p) between the United States and 
the European Union, 53 even though the notion of Western civilization actually 
covers other transcontinental contours. 54 

Paul Gilroy’s Black Atlantic (1993) cast a new light on Atlantic history centered 
on African American cultures. However, the book focuses equally on the North 
Atlantic and Caribbean societies and makes no reference to Africa. Although 
Gilroy highlights the idea of the black diaspora, he does not mention Afro- 
Brazilians, the largest national community of African descent outside Africa. In 
addition, nothing is said on the mulattos’ agency and characterization, a theme 
that is a crucial counterpoint to the analyses of African American history and 
that has been surveyed by generations of significant Brazilian, French, British, 
and American social scientists. 55 

It must be said that Gilroy in some way acknowledges this oversight. In the 
preface to the Brazilian translation of his book, he notes that African Brazil’s 
history has been “marginalized” in the literature on African American culture. 56 


the south Atlantic, past and present Luiz Felipe de Alencastro 

Communities and countries below the equator are surveyed in some collec- 
tive works aiming to encompass the global Atlantic history. 

Atlantic History: A Critical Appraisal (2009) is edited by Jack P. Greene and 
Philip D. Morgan, both of whom also made significant contributions to Atlantic 
history. 57 The book splits into different segments: the European empires are 
included in the South Atlantic network, segregating the “Dutch Atlantic,” the 
“Portuguese Atlantic,” and the “Spanish Atlantic.” Two chapters examine the 
Africans and the Amerindians, though the essays on systemic issues do not 
envision the interactions between the two shores of the southern Atlantic. En- 
compassing the American colonial period, the chapters overlook the Mozam- 
bican traffic to Brazil — a new segment of the Atlantic slave trade — and other 
long-lasting transformations of the first half of the nineteenth century, when 
the Cuban and Brazilian slave trade reached their zenith. While Luso-Brazilians 
surpassed all other Atlantic slave traders, Luanda turned into the most promi- 
nent enslaver embarkation port in Africa, and Rio de Janeiro emerged as the 
main slave trade hub in the Americas. 

Nicholas Canny and Philip Morgan edited another compelling book on the 
field, encompassing a larger period: 1450-1850. 58 This collective work under- 
plays interactions between Angola and Brazil as well as the role of Portuguese 
asentistas in the consolidation of Lisbon’s presence in West Central Africa. Some 
chapters develop an interesting global approach. Yet the chapter on Atlantic 
Warfare (Ira D. Gruber) does not comment on the South Atlantic Luso-Dutch 
war or the expeditionary troops from Brazil who fought in seventeenth- and 
eighteenth-century Angola. Kenneth Mills studies religion, omitting the pluri- 
centennial Catholic missions and religious culture in the Kongo kingdom and 
Angola. J.-F. Schaub’s chapter on violence in the sixteenth and seventeenth cen- 
turies scarcely cites Africa and eschews the violence generated by the Atlantic 
slave trade. In the same vein, Schaub’s acknowledgment to Father Vieira’s plea 
for the Amerindians does not see the other side of the coin: Fr. Vieira’s staunch 
support of the slave trade and the deportation of the Angolans. Robin Fox ad- 
dresses the topic of Africa and the Atlantic World, focusing chiefly on the Gulf 
of Guinea but too briefly on West Central Africa, the main deportation’s area. 
The complete survey of David Eltis on slavery and the slave trade unfortunately 
ends at the middle of the eighteenth century, hence there is no information 
about the recentering of the slave trade in the South Atlantic to the end of the 
Brazilian (1850) and Cuban (1867) slave trades or about the connections between 


the us South, Brazilian, Puerto Rican, and Cuban plantations and the slave trade 
with British Industrial Revolution — an issue previously studied by Eltis and in 
the seminal essay titled “Second Slavery” by Dale Tomich. 59 

Other collective works or author’s essays on Atlantic history consider simi- 
larly the year 1850 as a baseline for periodization, insofar as the date marks a 
surge in European trade and emigration. Some of them emphasize either South 
American or African history. 60 Still, no relationship is elaborated between clear- 
cut events brought about or performed in the Ethiopic Ocean by the Royal Navy 
at that time: the end of the Brazilian slave trade (1850), the bombing of Lagos 
(1851), and the blockade of Ouidah (1852). 61 The combined effects of those ep- 
isodes sharply marked Atlantic history. Between 1841-1850 and 1851-1860, the 
deportation of Africans to the Americas decreased by two-thirds, and this fall 
was almost entirely caused by the near end of disembarkments in Brazil. 62 

That aside, comparisons between the subdivisions of the Atlantic may boast 
false equivalences, since there is an obvious asymmetry: the continuity, the spa- 
tial scope, and the economic and political significance of the North Atlantic 
overcomes that of the South Atlantic. Which leads us to one question: after all, 
is South Atlantic history dissimilar from North Atlantic history? The answer is 
yes, definitely. 

To outline those distinctive characteristics, the next paragraphs review issues 
that delineated the South Atlantic network, as well as the twentieth-century his- 
toriography on the field, before Atlantic history became a scholarly area in its 
own right. 

Another Atlantic World: The Ethiopic Ocean in the Seventeenth Century 

Due to major changes during the 1600s in South America and Atlantic Africa, 
the seventeenth century was the heyday of the Ethiopic Ocean. 63 

A new geopolitical space had been shaped by the Iberian-Dutch struggle in 
Brazil and Angola through the Thirty Years War and beyond; the Portuguese 
Restoration diplomacy; the refocusing of the Braganza dynasty’s overseas pol- 
icy from Asia to the Atlantic; the Jesuits’ activities in the Atlantic; the Paulista 
Indian slaving raids in Paraguay; the annihilation of Indian communities in Por- 
tuguese America Northeast; the military expeditions from Brazil to Angola; the 
Amerindian, Maroon, and African rebellions in Brazil and West Central Africa; 
the introduction of South American crops (most notably, maize and cassava) in 
Central African agriculture; the extension of inland trade networks in Angola; 


the south Atlantic, past and present Luiz Felipe de Alencastro 

the overthrow of the Ndongo kingdom; the decline of the Kongo kingdom and the 
emergence of the Lunda and Luba States; the rise of the Dahomey kingdom; 
the displacements of the Spanish slave asientos’ networks southward to Luanda 
andPotosi through Buenos Aires; and, finally, the doctrinaire legitimation of the 
Atlantic slave trade by the clergy and missionaries of Brazil and Angola. 

Throughout the Iberian Union, the Portuguese slave traders, ship-owners, 
prominent merchants, and their Spanish partners acquired all of the asientos 
auctioned in Madrid from 1595 to 1640. In the process, they added the Spanish 
American slave market to the management they already wielded on the Brazilian 
market. Additionally, the asentistas’ investments broadened the Portuguese do- 
minion in West Central Africa. Settlements and forts in Benguela, Luanda, Mu- 
xima, Massangano, and Cambambe were built or reinforced through the asiento 
contracts held by the Portuguese. Such enclaves secured Lisbon’s dominance in 
Angola ports and inland markets, helping to curb the Dutch and, later, French 
trade to the Soyo County and the Loango kingdom, at the mouth of the Congo 
River. As a result, the combined spaces of the Ethiopic Ocean frame its histori- 
cal outline. Typically, Africanists and Americanists singly study crucial and cor- 
related issues of the South Atlantic. 

Pondering the intensification of embarkments in Angola at the beginning of 
the seventeenth century, Africanists emphasize endogenous factors (the escala- 
tion of enslavement raids by the Jaga-Imbangala warriors allied to the Portu- 
guese) and overlook the rising slave demand from the asentistas’ agents newly 
settled in Luanda. 64 Conversely, examining the shifting from Indian slavery to 
black slavery in his magisterial book on Bahia’s plantations, Stuart Schwartz 
focuses on the sugar mills’ management and does not take into account the in- 
crease in African disembarkments in Brazil following the asentistas’ investments 
in Angola. 65 

From this same territorial perspective, Americanists often analyze the debate 
on the legitimacy of black slavery as if the theological and legal controversies 
on the enslaved African status began when they landed in America. As a matter 
of fact, the acceptance of the enslaving and trading of Africans predates the dis- 
covery of America. 

Proposed by the Portuguese Crown and issued by Pope Nicholas V, the bull 
Romanus Pontifex (1455) set the legal basis of the Atlantic slave trade. 66 Later, es- 
tablished by Crown’s contracts and configuring a tool of the Iberian policies, 
the Asientos de Negros gave new dimensions to the lawfulness of the African’s 



enslavement. As mention earlier, Fr. Antonio Vieira, as well as other Iberian 
Church authorities before him, envisioned the African slave trade as a process 
for converting the heathen deportees into Catholics within the colonial enclaves 
in America. Bought at inland markets, branded with the owner’s seal after the 
payment of the Crown’s fee in Luanda and West African ports, drawn away from 
Africa’s paganism, and sold to Christian masters, the enslaved was already half- 
way toward heaven on his arrival in Catholic America. Therefore the problem 
of the legitimacy of blacks’ slavery became a subsidiary and sometimes indis- 
cernible element in Ibero-America. 

To be sure, endogenous factors influenced the increase of the inland slave 
trade to Luanda and other Africans ports as well as the expansion and the legit- 
imacy of the African slavery in South America. However, the South Atlantic per- 
spective offers a more comprehensive approach that prevents pitfalls of disci- 
plinary divisions and territorial interpretations. 

On the geopolitical viewpoint, stages of the Dutch West India Company (wic) 
operations on both shores of the Atlantic (1630-1654) displayed the unified 
economic space shaped within the Ethiopic Ocean. The Dutch first occupied 
the Portuguese sugarcane plantations in Pernambuco (1630), Brazil, and then 
decided to capture Angola (1641). The other way around, the Portuguese and 
Brazil’s settlers first recaptured Angola (1648) to undermine and expel the wic 
from Brazil (1654). The outcomes of the world economic war between Portugal 
and the United Provinces are thus clear. Across the Pacific, over the Spice War, 
where factories’ control was at stake, Lisbon had lost. In the South Atlantic, over 
the Sugar War concerning possession of South America’s plantations as well as 
African slave trade areas, thanks to her control over Angolan inland networks, 
Lisbon had won. Henceforth, the center of the Portuguese overseas shifted from 
the Pacific to the Atlantic, from an economy of circulation to an economy of 
production more related to territorial control. 

Strengthened by the asientos investments and support from metropolitan and 
Brazil’ s colonists, Lisbon gained predominance in Angola, winning the largest 
slave market in Africa. While European powers engaged in slave trade concen- 
trated their commerce on coastal posts, Portugal held inland networks in An- 
gola and became the only European country that undertook official, large-scale 
military operations to enslave Africans. 

The recovery of Angola’s networks by the Portuguese as well as the opening 
of new markets on the Slave Coast raised African deportation to Brazil and im- 

the south Atlantic, past and present Lutz Felipe de Alencastro 

pacted the Indian territories in the Northeast. Turning into a less significant re- 
serve of captive labor, Indian villages appeared as a hindrance to the cattle-raising 
expansion. From then on, with the support of the Paulistas from southern Bra- 
zil and militiamen from the North recruited by planters and ranchers, a war was 
waged against the northeastern Indians, from the Bahia backhands up to the Am- 
azon’s south bank. Troops and officers who had previously fought in Angola or 
in the Brasflica War against the Dutch often raided Indians and Maroon villages 
in northeastern Brazil, particularly during the thirty or so expeditions launched 
against Palmares from 1654 until 1694. Some of these officers and militiamen re- 
turned later to Angola. Back and forth across Brazil and Angola hinterlands, such 
military propagate a common knowledge on wars waged around the Tropic of 
Capricorn, forming therefore a new colonial army in the South Atlantic. 67 

Called (significantly) the Barbarian Wars (1651-1704), the campaigns against 
the northeastern Indians marked a rupture in Portuguese America. For the first 
time, the colonial offensive aimed the extermination rather than the enslave- 
ment of the Indians. 68 Therefore the African slave trade extension had dramatic 
consequences to the Indian communities as well. 

By that time, two major transformations occurred in the Atlantic. In the north- 
ern Atlantic, aside from Lisbon and Seville, new organizational centers of the 
slave trade had arisen in Liverpool, London, Bristol, and Nantes. 69 In the south- 
ern Atlantic, a bilateral trade consolidated between Brazil and African ports in 
Angola and in the Gulf of Guinea. 

Such geopolitical space was comprehended and institutionalized by Rome. 
Reorganized by Pope Innocence X in the 1670s, the Portuguese dioceses under- 
pin the South Atlantic network. Following the maritime currents and exchanges, 
the new bishopric ofMaranhao (North Brazil) was made suffragan of the Lis- 
bon’s archbishop (1677). By contrast, the dioceses of Congo-Angola and Sao 
Tome became suffragan of the new archbishopric of Bahia (1676). 70 

Featuring unparalleled transatlantic moves in the Americas, no less than ten 
military expeditions from Brazil were organized between the middle of the sev- 
enteenth century and the middle of the eighteenth, mainly in Pernambuco, to 
assist Portuguese forces in Angola. 71 Regionalist chroniclers in Brazil registered 
such activities. Writing about the “glories” of Pernambuco, an eighteenth-century 
Pernambucano chronicler praised the “rare value” of the Pernambucano com- 
batants who crossed the South Atlantic to fight in Angola, “sustaining with 
their hands that great share of the Portuguese empire.” 72 



By the same token, royal officers, missionaries, merchants, and adventurers 
traveled between Brazil and Angola, furthering Portuguese ascendancy in Cen- 
tral Africa. Additionally, several bishops and a dozen governors in Angola occu- 
pied similar posts within Portuguese America, prior to assuming or after having 
assumed their functions in Luanda between 1648 and 1810. 73 

Unlike the plantation enclaves of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, 
the economics of gold mining generated a continental trade network through- 
out Portuguese America in the eighteenth century. The growth and diversifica- 
tion of the Brazilian economy intensified exchanges with the African ports. Rio 
de Janeiro and, to a lesser extent, Pernambucano merchants took control of 
Benguela slave trade as Bahia’s vessels sailed more frequently to the Slave Coast. 
Moreover, under the Crown’s and metropolitan merchants’ direction, a new slave 
trade circuit was created between Guinea-Bissau and the Portuguese Amazon 
seaports of Belem and Sao Luis. 74 

Major findings on those issues expanded the historiography on the South 
Atlantic in Argentina, Brazil, and the European colonial powers involved in 
West Central Africa. Many sources and essays on Congo and Angola discussed 
below derived from colonial and missionary authors. Referring to the Kongo 
kingdom, for which there was sixteenth- to eighteenth-century European docu- 
mentation he aptly considered “richer . . . than for any other state in Africa,” 
Richard Gray stated: “The value of this material is, however, vitiated by its alien 
nature and there does not seem much likelihood of oral tradition greatly reme- 
dying this deficiency.” 75 

Taken literally, such approach would imply that no research could be done 
on most of modern Africa and South America (and on many other places and 
periods). In any case, the necessary solution is to scrutinize the colonial data in 
order to uncover the relationship between evolving communities on both sides 
of the South Atlantic. As we shall see below, the ideological context driving the 
sources’ publication and the colonial historiography constitutes an inescapable 
aspect of Atlantic history. 

The Historiography of Portugal’s Colonial Atlantic 

Commemorations on the third centennial of the Braganza’s Restoration (1640), 
which reestablished the country’s independence in Europe and overseas, brought 
official sponsorship to historical research and to the Congresso do Mundo Por- 
tugues, held in Lisbon. Gathering historians and social scientists from different 


the south Atlantic, past and present Luiz Felipe de Alencastro 

countries when Europe’s balance of power was being shaken by the Second 
World War, the conference centered around the idea of the legitimacy and en- 
durance of the Portuguese colonial possessions. 76 In the meantime, the Agenda 
Geral das Colonias subsidized books and research journals on Portugal’s over- 
seas history. 77 Revealing debates, whose influence on later books on Atlantic his- 
tory has been underestimated, occurred around those two commemorations. 78 

Edgar Prestage’s publications on seventeenth-century Portugal’s diplomatic 
history and Hermann Watjen’s book on Dutch colonization in Brazil completed 
the works of several Portuguese and Brazilian historians. 79 Prestage, who later 
converted to Catholicism, continued a long tradition of British historians spe- 
cializing in Anglo-Portuguese relations. 

By the time Germany’s late colonialism expanded in Africa, Watjen, a Heidel- 
berg historian, decided to study wic ’s policies in the seventeenth-century South 
Atlantic in order to understand the failure of German colonies during the first 
European expansion. As is known, the wic had many Germans beside the 
Dutch in its settlements in Brazil and Angola, not to mention Johan Moritz von 
Nassau-Siegen, the Westphalian governor of New Holland. 80 

Some of the Portuguese authors writing on the Atlantic — such as Joao Lucio 
de Azevedo, Serafim Leite, Jaime Cortesao, Edmundo Correia Lopes, and Ruela 
Pombo — lived in Brazil and interacted with Brazilian historians and institu- 
tions, improving the common knowledge of South Atlantic history. 

A leading Catholic historian, Azevedo renewed the studies on Portuguese 
colonial economy. Most notably, he offered new perspectives on the endeavors 
of Fr. Antonio Vieira (1608-1697). Publishing and annotating unknown letters 
and memorials from Vieira, he brought to light the gifted seventeenth-century 
preacher, political writer, colonial expert, and statesman who was the first influ- 
ential author to outline the unity and the geopolitical significance of the Ethio- 
pic Ocean. 81 

The Jesuit Serafim Leite focused his research on the missionaries in Portu- 
guese America. A central idea underlines his works: the protection and spiritual 
redemption of the Indians by the Jesuits was the greatest accomplishment of the 
Portuguese in Brazil. 82 

The Christian humanity toward the Indians, epitomized by the Jesuits, over- 
rode the Atlantic slave trade and other tragedies caused by Lisbon’s colonial- 
ism. Aiming Portuguese and Brazilian readers, his Historia attempts to join both 
nations — then taken by a wave of nationalism — around the civilizational evan- 


gelization achieved by the Jesuits in Portuguese America. Beyond his ideological 
comments, Leite collected documents in many Portuguese and Jesuit archives 
illustrating relationships between Catholic doctrine and practice on slavery. En- 
tangled in the national framework of Brazil’s historiography, he underplays the 
connections between the Jesuits’ missions in Brazil and Angola. 

Jaime Cortesao’s research — significantly funded by the Brazilian Ministry of 
Foreign Affairs — influenced Brazil’s territorial history. His writings on the b an- 
deirantes had a double impact. Interpreting the Paulistas’ slaving raids on Para- 
guayan Indian missions as attacks against the Spanish power in South America, 
Cortesao inscribed the bandeiras in the celebrated Restoration Wars, flattering 
the same Sao Paulo’s oligarchies that had favored his publications. By doing 
so, he also underlined the extent of the connections between southern Brazil, 
Paraguay, and Rio de la Plata. Though Cortesao had not studied the American 
nexuses with Africa, his envisioning of the global Portuguese overseas and his 
larger approach to Iberian America contributed to the depiction of the South 
Atlantic history. 83 

Edmundo Correia Lopes, philologist and ethnographer, lived and taught in 
Brazil from 1927 until 1937, where he researched Afro-Brazilian culture in Bahia. 
In 1944, the Agenda Geral das Colonias published his book on slavery in the 
Portuguese Atlantic, which provided an authoritative quantitative and qualita- 
tive overview of the Atlantic slave trade. 84 

A lesser-known Portuguese author, Fr. Ruela Pombo, created the periodical 
Diogo Caao (1931-1938), which was based in Luanda and spurred research on 
Portuguese West Central Africa. 85 A priest and self-taught historian, he moved 
from Portugal to Brazil in 1912 and, ten years later, from Brazil to Angola. Im- 
pressed by the commemorations of the centennial of Brazil’s independence in 
1922, he was the first author to do research in Minas Gerais and Luanda archives 
on the Brazilian rebels deported to Angola in 1789. His works are at times bewil- 
dering, but overall inspiring. Conveying his transatlantic parochialism from 
Porto to Sapucaf (Minas Gerais) and then to Luanda, Ruela Pombo improved re- 
search on the South Atlantic. 86 Sources on Angolan-Brazilian relations, Luanda’s 
government, Cadornega’s Histdria Geral das Guerras Angolanas (1680), and signifi- 
cant documents on Congo and Angola were printed and annotated for the first 
time in Diogo Caao, prompting the edition of Luanda’s journal titled Arquiuos de 
Angola. 87 Well after Ruela Pombo’s death, P. E. H. Hair acknowledged his “pio- 


the south Atlantic, past and present Luiz Felipe de Alencastro 

neering piece of African history text-editing” and regretted that he remained 
mostly unknown. 88 

A work of primordial importance, Historic! Geral das Guerras Angolanas describes 
the struggles in the main European enclave in sub-Saharan Africa. Written in 
Luanda in a vivid style by an old Angola hand relying on documents collected by 
three generations of Angola’s settlers and authorities as well as on oral African 
sources, Cadornega — considered “the father of the History of Angola” by Ruela 
Pombo — inaugurates the “Angolista history,” that is, the history of Angola from 
the settlers’ perspective. 89 

No comparable reflection was written in any other European enclave in Af- 
rica at that time. Notably, Cadornega establishes a literary connection across the 
South Atlantic, stating that his Historia Geral emulated Portuguese books on 
the Brasilic Wars waged in Pernambuco against the Dutch. To him, the battles 
the Angolistas fought in seventeenth century deserved as much merit as the Bra- 
silic and Portugal’s Restoration Wars. 

By editing the Historia Geral in 1938-1942, amid the celebrations of the 1640 
Restoration, Fr. Ruela Pombo and Canon Jose Mathias Delgado, professor at the 
Escola Superior Colonial, gave full significance to Cadornega’s work. Echoing 
eighteenth-century’s Lisbon’s optimistic prognostics on Brazil, Fr. Delgado 
concludes his introduction to the 1940 edition of the Historia Geral by praising 
the endeavors of generations of Portuguese who with the “greatest sacrifices 
and works bequeathed to us such rich heritage of Angola which constitutes Por- 
tugal’s future.” 90 

Connections between Angola and Brazil, slightly suggested by Cadornega, 
are much more clearly depicted a century later by the Brazilian-born Elias Alex- 
andre Silva Correa in his Historia de Angola (1787-1799). An army officer in Lu- 
anda for seven years, Silva Correa, based on documents and oral sources from 
Luanda and Rio de Janeiro, envisaged Angola in relationship with Brazil’s his- 
tory. As Joseph Miller observed, Silva Correa “betrays his sympathies with his 
American countrymen.” 91 

Published in 1937 by Manuel Murias, an influential cultural activist of Sala- 
zar’s regime, Silva Correa book, like Cadornega’s Histo'ria, was viewed as a fur- 
ther testimony “of the Portuguese historic culture” in Africa, outside its South 
Atlantic context. Conversely, Brazil’s historiography or Brazilian authors ig- 
nored both books. 92 However, Cadornega and Silva Correa’s works constitute 



mandatories and incomparable sources on colonial Angola and on South Atlan- 
tic history. 

Confronted with European competition overseas, Portugal has leveraged her 
fifteenth- through eighteenth-century overseas chronicles, when Lisbon was a 
pivotal actor of the first Western expansion, in order to reassert her colonial 
rights throughout the second expansion in nineteenth and twentieth centuries, 
wherein she had a quite secondary role. 

In his 1841 preface to the first edition of Cronica da Guine (1453-1460), the 
Viscount of Santarem — an experienced historian and Portuguese diplomat — 
praised Zurara’s work as a testimony to the “priority” of Lisbon’s arrival in 
Africa. 93 Three decades later, the Viscount of Paiva Manso’s Histdria do Congo 
(1877), with key historical documents on the Portuguese in Kongo and Angola, 
was published. A noted jurist, Paiva Manso had previously edited government’s 
documents and charts probing, against British claims, Portugal’s rights at the 
Lourengo Marques Bay. 94 His edition of historical sources on the Portuguese 
presence in the Congo basin aimed then to rebuff the Belgium’s pretensions in 
the area. Prompting new investigations, his book turned out to be a founding 
text on the Kongo kingdom’s history. 95 

In turn, the first editors of Cadornega’s Histdria Gera! (1680) intended to 
demonstrate in 1940 the precedence of the Portuguese settlements and institu- 
tions, including the Portuguese clergy, in Angola. From the nineteenth to the 
twentieth centuries, the publication of those books had the same purpose: to 
establish the primacy, continuity, and legitimacy of Portugal’s dominance in 
Africa over the competing colonial powers of the nineteenth and twentieth 

Throughout the 1940 commemorations the role of the Portuguese Church 
gained a new dimension. In 1930, the Colonial Act edited by Salazar established 
the Portuguese overseas missions as “instruments of civilization and national 
influence.” Ten years later, the Missions Agreement was set up between Lisbon 
and the Vatican. 96 By then, the Catholic Church had a more prominent role in 
Portugal than in any other European colonial power. A fresh colonial power, 
Belgium sent Catholics and, to a lesser extent, Protestant missionaries to her 
African territories. 97 

In this context, Lisbon — the main provider of missionaries, catechisms, and 
churches in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia since the sixteenth century — acted as a 
stronghold of Catholic colonialism. This dimension was fully assumed by the 


the south Atlantic, past and present Luiz Felipe de Alencastro 

dictatorship of Salazar, whose international leadership was enhanced during 
the Cold War. 

As Bernard Bailyn has noted, Salazar was one of the authorities quoted by 
Ross Hoffman, a leading Catholic historian teaching at Columbia University, 
in his 1945 plea for an “Atlantic community” aimed at uniting the “progeny of 
Western Christendom.” 98 However, the strategic Portuguese space in the Atlan- 
tic, particularly the Azores Allied military base, granted Salazar better assets 
than the defense of the Christianity in Africa. Although Catholic Spain was still 
debased by Franco’s dictatorship, Portugal’s dictator was invited to be a found- 
ing member of NATO in 1949." Within this geopolitical and ideological con- 
text, three clerical historians and editors undertook a global history of the Por- 
tuguese missions in America, Asia, and Africa. 

As mentioned above, the first author was Serafim Leite s j . Father Antonio da 
Silva Rego was the second. In 1947, with decisive support from Salazar and from 
Goa’s Catholic Patriarch in the East Indies, he edited the first of its ten volumes 
of documents on the missions in Asia. In his introduction, alluding in a timely 
way to India’s independence, Silva Rego asserted the consubstantiality of Portu- 
gal’s colonization and Christianity: “We intend to study the social and mission- 
ary action of the Portuguese in the East, since it is impossible to try to separate 
them.” According to him, only Portuguese colonial rule could protect Catholics 
in India. 100 A graduate in history at the Catholic University of Louvain, where an 
Ecole de Sciences Coloniales was founded in 1909 to instruct Belgian mission- 
aries and colonial officials, Silva Rego himself became an influential professor 
at Lisbon’s Escola Superior Colonial. Among other works, he wrote a signifi- 
cant book marking the third centennial of reconquest of Angola by the Portu- 
guese from Lisbon and Rio de Janeiro in 1648. 101 

The third component of the global missionary history was launched in 1952, 
when Fr. Antonio Brasio published the first volume of his Monumenta Missionaria 
Africana (mma ). 102 A Holy Ghost or Spiritan Father, Brasio belonged to the reli- 
gious congregation regarded as the Jesuit’s successors in the nineteenth- and 
twentieth-century West Central African evangelical task. 

Herein lies one of the discrepancies concerning the Catholic missions in the 
first and second European expansion. Whereas the Jesuits, Capuchins, and Do- 
minicans established missions on four continents from the sixteenth century 
through the eighteenth, the second European expansion saw the emergence 
of congregations centered on specific cultural areas. Like the Spiritans order, 



re-created in 1848 as a postabolitionist congregation to mission in Haiti, Mar- 
tinique, and sub-Saharan Africa, the White Fathers was founded in 1868 to act 
in Muslim North Africa, and the Society of the Divine World missionaries (1875) 
was effective in China. More specialized culturally and regionally, those mis- 
sionaries and their scholarship and documentary records lack the global and 
multicultural approach to evangelization embodying the congregations cou- 
pled to the first European expansion. 

In 1865 the Spiritan congregation obtained the administration of abandoned 
Capuchins missions in Congo and Angola. 103 Fr. Jose Maria Antunes, the first 
Portuguese-born Provincial of the Spiritans and founder of the Huila missions, 
allied with Portuguese authorities to repel Boer intrusions into South Angola at 
the turn of the twentieth century. 104 Likewise, aware of the need to keep up the 
Portuguese past in Angola, Fr. Antunes copied the complete Paris manuscript of 
Cadornega’s Historici and partially published it, for the first time, in a 1902 issue 
of Portugal em Africa , the Spiritan missionary journal he edited. 105 

In 1943 Fr. Brasio began editing Portugal em Africa , where he collaborated with 
ideologues and self-taught historians like Manuel Murias and other personal- 
ities of the Salazar regime. Consequently, the mma series had matured for a de- 
cade before the publication of its first volume. 106 

Brasio’s works, along with those of many of his country’s Africanists, must 
also be set within the rivalry between the Portuguese and Belgian Catholics, on 
one side, and the Belgian, English, and American Protestant missionaries and 
colonial officials in Central and Austral Africa, on the other. 107 Like many Por- 
tuguese and Catholic Belgians, Brazil’s consul in Luanda believed that Protes- 
tant missionaries and American evangelical leaders encouraged ethnic tensions 
and revolt among Angolans in 1961. 108 

Wisely selecting and occasionally annotating hundreds of unknown or un- 
derstudied documents from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, through a 
period of growing academic interest in Portuguese Africa, Fr. Brasio issued the 
mma series, with twenty-three volumes edited and published during his lifetime, 
as a unique repertory. This documentary collection has contributed decisively to 
most of the research on early West and West Central Africa, making Brasio’s 
intellectual influence more enduring than those of Serafim Leite and Silva Rego. 
His prefaces to the mma volumes foreshadow the dramas that preceded and fol- 
lowed the decolonization, namely in Angola, the main country reported in the 
Missiona'ria. In his introduction to volume 12 — the first to be published after the 

the south Atlantic, past and present Luiz Feiipe de Alencastro 

historical chasm caused in Lisbon by the Carnation Revolution and Lusophone 
African countries’ independences — Father Brasio wrote amid resignation and 
Christian faith: “The history of the African missions is done with heroisms and 
failures.” 109 

In this way, missionaries, historians, diplomats, and chroniclers revealed, 
annotated, and edited important manuscript data from Congo and Angola, the 
only European enclave in Africa where consistent colonial sources existed from 
the sixteenth century on. 110 

Although Antonio Brasio organized missionary compilations on Portuguese 
Africa and Serafim Leite presented a historical account of the Jesuits in Portu- 
guese America, both works disregard the connections — recorded in the doc- 
uments they researched — between Brazil and Angola’s Jesuits. This issue may 
also be raised regarding Dauril Alden’s book on the Society of Jesus, which, 
despite its global scope, suffers from the same territorial bias toward the Jesuits’ 
undertakings in the South Atlantic. 111 

The twentieth century’s missionary regional focus, territorial history, and 
academic divisions severed the global interpretations of the seventeenth- and 
eighteenth-century Jesuit chroniclers. Indeed, the separate and sometimes con- 
flicting studies of the missions in Brazil, on one side, and of Angola and Congo, 
on the other, are a blatant example of the misperceptions engendered by the 
territorial and national historical frameworks. 

Brazilian History and the “Territorial Paradigm” 

Notwithstanding the enduring presence of Africa and Africans in South Ameri- 
can history, most of the specialists on Brazilian studies in Brazil, America, and 
Europe follow a territorial paradigm that can be summed up by a false axiom: 
the history of colonial Brazil unfolds within the Brazilian colonial territory. 

As mentioned earlier, the gold exploitation in eighteenth-century Minas 
Gerais redrew the South Atlantic network and, by extension, the historiography 
on Brazil. In the last decades of nineteenth century, the Republican movement, 
aiming to confront the monarchic accounts that showed Emperor Pedro I as 
the father of Brazil’s independency and the Braganza dynasty as its guarantor, 
emphasized the Inconfidencia Mineira, the 1789 rebellion in Minas Gerais, and 
praised Tirandentes, the rebels’ leader, executed by the Crown. 112 

Renewing political ties with the Americas’ nations, thenceforth fully ruled 
by republican systems, the Brazilian new regime invigorated territorial-based 


narratives as the dominant model of national history. The fact that Portuguese 
America’s vice-kingdom was the only American colonial aggregate to still stand 
in its entirety after the national independences improved this territorial histo- 
riographical trend. 

Meanwhile, important works in economic, diplomatic, and literary history 
established the key role of the gold cycle and Minas Gerais in the building of the 
nation-state. To most of the twentieth-century Brazilian authors, Minas Gerais 
provided the country with an economic and cultural core, a protonational rebel- 
lion, and an independence martyr. Highly influential, and endorsed by govern- 
mental institutions and textbooks, such interpretations shunned South Atlantic 

Similarly, dissensions between the states and Rio de Janeiro’s central govern- 
ment revived local narratives in Brazil, strengthening the territorial bias. In- 
spired by Sao Paulo’s and Pernambuco’s chronicles written since the 1600s, 
Paulista and Pernambucano authors narrated the achievements of their ances- 
tors. The seventeenth-century bandeirantes Indian wars and the Pernambucano 
Brasilic war against the Dutch (1630-1654) started to be more generally pre- 
sented as the forerunners of Brazilian independence. 113 

In this context, the rich Pernambucano historiography on the Dutch in Brazil — 
renewed by Tempo dos Flamencos (1947) , a key book by Jose Antonio Gonsalves de 
Mello — eluded the Dutch and Pernambucano involvement in Angola. Another 
important work by Gonsalves de Mello, his biography of Joao Fernandes Vieira, 
a commander in the Brasilic war against the Dutch who was rewarded by Lisbon 
with governorships in Brazil and Angola, merely dedicates a few pages to his 
government in Luanda. 114 This is striking, considering the decades-long en- 
croachment of Pernambucano governors, military, and merchants on Angolan 
affairs. In the same vein, most of the biographers of Fr. Antonio Vieira and com- 
mentators on his writings did not mention his decisive support to the Angolan 
slave trade and black slavery in Brazil. 

From this point, seminal books on Brazil’s history eclipsed the South Atlan- 
tic approach. References to the Brazil’s exchanges with Africa and to the inter- 
ventions of its settlers in Angola were included in Varnhagen’s first edition of 
Historic! Geral do Brasil (1857), but they were suppressed by the editors from the 
widely publicized and still quoted twentieth-century edition of his book. 115 

Capistrano de Abreu’s Capitulos de Historia Colonial (1907), a programmatic 
work on colonial history praised by generations of historians of Brazil, focuses 

the south Atlantic, past and present Luiz Felipe de Alencastro 

on inland sertoes expansion and does not make a single reference to Angola. 116 
To Capistrano de Abreu and his disciples, the African segment of the Brazilian 
slave system did not fit into the country’s colonial history. 

To be sure, the institutional and international outcomes of the nineteenth- 
century slave trade have drawn attention from jurists and diplomacy historians. 
At the First Congress of History of Brazil, held in Rio de Janeiro in 1914, a noted 
jurist and future general attorney, Joao Luiz Alves, wrote a dense essay on the 
international treaties and national laws regarding the suppression of the slave 
trade in the South Atlantic. By that time, when little or none research was being 
done in the few existing Brazilian faculties, Alves’s essay became a reference. 117 
Incidentally, the legal aspects of the slave trade were also central in the book of 
the French jurist Georges Scelle — one of the founders of contemporary interna- 
tional law — on the Asiento de Negros. Published in 1906, this still authoritative 
work was known by Brazilian specialists. 118 However, such approaches left little 
room for the study of the African history in Brazil. 

While a nineteenth-century tradition of Afro-Brazilian studies subsisted, cul- 
minating in the work of Gilberto Freyre’s Casa Grande e Senzala (1933), Africa’s 
history remained largely ignored in nineteenth- and twentieth-century research. 
Afro-Brazilians forced or voluntary migrations, generally from nineteenth- 
century Bahia, engendered communities such as the Tabom people, in modern 
Togo and Ghana, and the Aguda, in modern Benin. 119 Yet, in contrast with 
Jamaica and the United States, there was no twentieth-century back-to-Africa 
movement among Afro-Brazilian leadership. 

In addition, during the First Afro-Brazilian Congress (1934) convened by 
Gilberto Freyre in Recife, many specialists, including Afro-Brazilian activists, 
shared colonialists’ ideas on Africans and Africa primitiveness. 120 Twenty years 
later, prefacing the nineteenth-century description of a Dahomey by a Brazilian 
traveler, a noted historian, Clado Ribeiro da Lessa, explained that such “anec- 
dotic” accounts of an African country should be regarded as a mere stopgap 
narrative, insofar as Brazil’s past lacked events significant enough to mark “the 
human evolution.” 121 

However, the strengthening of the federal administration under the Vargas 
regime spurred new research on African-Brazilian history. Supervised by the re- 
markable Italian demographer Giorgio Mortara, then exiled in Rio de Janeiro, 
the National Statistics Agency (ibge) enhanced the study of the Brazilian pop- 
ulations. Reliable and comprehensive data on the populations’ strata were ana- 


lyzed in the introductory chapters of the 1940 national census. Recollections 
of the color and racial statistics from 1872, 1900, 1920, and 1940 were put into 
perspective for the first time. 122 

Debates on national statistics, peopling, and economic history underlie Mauri- 
cio Goulart’s work on the slave trade (1949). 123 Goulart shed further light on the 
Atlantic and internal traffic, dismissing several “delirious estimates” from pre- 
vious historians. 124 Ultimately, Goulart’s book sketched the slave trade in Brazil 
from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, analyzing transformations in the 
plantation and mining’s areas. Goulart’s approaches were generally accepted or 
confirmed by Philip Curtin in his pathbreaking census on the slave trade. Still, 
as David Eltis has shown, Curtin and Goulart underestimate illegal disembark- 
ments Brazil during the nineteenth century. In spite of Goulart’s comprehensive 
assessments, most of the subsequent Brazilian studies on slavery did not scruti- 
nize the African regions or the influx of deportees to the Brazilian ports. 125 

Although Gilberto Freyre had already published 0 mundo que 0 portugues criou 
(1940), where his ideas on mestizaje as proof of racial tolerance encompassed 
the whole Portuguese overseas, his concept of Lusotropicalism emerged in 
I 953 - 126 Following a voyage in the Portuguese colonies sponsored by Salazar, 
he turned into a proponent of Portugal’s colonialism on the grounds of the 
“special trans European vocation of the Portuguese people.” 127 

Most notably, in the same year that he founded the Movimento Popular de 
Libertagao de Angola (mpla) with Agostinho Neto, Mario Pinto de Andrade 
wrote in Paris the first Angolan refutation of Freyre’s Lusotropicalism. A na- 
tive from Alto Golungo, an area raided by Portuguese and Luso-Angolans slave 
traders in the past, Pinto de Andrade was well aware of the differences between 
Brazil and Angola. Namely, he underlines a key point of the disparity between 
the two sides of the Portuguese South Atlantic: the growth of the mulatto popu- 
lation in Brazil and its atrophy in Angola. 128 

In the wake of Asian-African independences, the South Atlantic World 
emerged again in the Brazilian foreign policy. 

After his participation as government special envoy at the anticolonialist 
Bandung Conference (1955), the diplomat Bezerra de Menezes proposed a co- 
management of Portuguese Africa by Lisbon and Rio de Janeiro. Unknowingly 
repeating seventeenth-century ideas of Lisboans’ policy makers and predators 
who favored the Pernambucano and Bahian militias’ in Angolan wars, he stated 
that Nordestino Brazilians “better than anyone else would fit to government jobs 


the south Atlantic, past and present Luiz Felipe de Alencastro 

in Angola and Mozambique.” In a military shift from Freyre’s ideas on Luso- 
tropicalism, he suggested “a strong influx of Brazilian soldiers, not entirely 
White neither entirely Blacks . . . but Mulattos and Caboclos (Indian Mestizos)” 
to strengthen Portuguese garrisons in Goa, Timor, and Macau, the most vul- 
nerable Portuguese overseas territories in those days. 129 

As is well known, Brazilian governments, and particularly the Kubistchek 
presidency (1955-1960), openly supported Portugal’s colonialism in the un and 
other international forums at that time. 130 

Far from the colonialist empathy with Portugal was Brasil e Africa (1961), by a 
distinguished historian, Jose Honorio Rodrigues. Translated into English and 
reviewed by David Birmingham and Boxer, the book has not received due at- 
tention from today’s researchers. In fact, some of the analysis and historical 
documents he studied remain unexplored by current specialists of Luso-Afro- 
Brazilian history. Rodrigues’s book presents the first narrative on Brazil’s rela- 
tions with Africa, mainly with Angola, encompassing colonial and national 
periods, as well as the un debates on Africa’s decolonization. 

It is noteworthy that the book was promoted by the Brazil’s Ministry of For- 
eign Relations. Breaking decades of unconditional alliance with Portuguese co- 
lonialism, under the Quadros and Goulart administrations (1960-1964) Brazil 
adopted a drive to an “independent foreign policy” favoring the Lusophone 
countries’ emancipation in Africa. As a director of Rio de Janeiro’s National Ar- 
chives, Rodriques belonged to the liberal intellectual circles that formulated the 
new foreign policy. Opposing Gilberto Freyre’s Lusotropicalism, which revamped 
Salazar’s colonialist ideology, Brasil e Africa formed the basis of the Brazilian- 
Angolan aggregate history. 

Even before the 1964 dictatorship, the African-Brazilian writer and diplo- 
mat Raymundo Souza Dantas subtly portrayed the failed expectations of Brazil’s 
“independent foreign policy.” 131 His book records his frustrating mission as 
Brazil’s ambassador (1961-1963) in Ghana and special envoy in Togo. 132 

In any event, the coup d’etat instating the dictatorial and pro-Salazar regime 
in Brazil stifled the debate on Lusophone Africa’s independence. Active in the 
undertakings favoring Luso-African movements at the un from i960 through 
1964, the diplomat Antonio Houaiss, later a celebrated lexicographer, was pun- 
ished by the dictatorship in the aftermath of the coup d’etat. Accused of being 
“an enemy of Portugal,” Houaiss had his political rights revoked for ten years 
and was expelled from the Brazilian diplomatic career in 1964. 133 Nonetheless, 


after a close association with Salazarist politics in Africa, the Brazilian dictator- 
ship, under the Geisel presidency (1970-1974) recognized the Lusophone Afri- 
can countries’ independences. 134 Again, Brazil’s interest turned to Africa. 

The Rio de la Plata and the South Atlantic 

As in other parts of the Atlantic, the seventeenth century was critical in the Rio 
de la Plata history, due, of course, to the Potosf silver trade through Salta, Tucu- 
man, and Cordoba to Buenos Aires. From Valparaiso and the Pacific a second 
path across Santiago and Mendoza reached Cordoba and Buenos Aires. 135 

Aside the Panama isthmus a second overland path linked the Atlantic and the 
Pacific. Apart from illegal exchanges with African ports, smuggling took also 
place via Bahia and Rio de Janeiro. When returning from the Rio de la Plata, the 
ships brought in, to Rio de Janeiro but also to Bahia and Recife, coined and un- 
coined silver, as well as gold, which then traveled to Luanda and Lisbon. A cen- 
tury before the eighteenth century’s gold mining in Minas Gerais, Upper Peru’s 
silver was already boosting South Atlantic maritime exchanges. Thus in the 
1630s Portugal’s royal cosmographer Antonio Mariz de Carneiro described the 
sailing between Rio de Janeiro and Rio de la Plata as a segment of the Lisbon 
network encompassing European goods, Brazilian sugar, Potosf silver, and An- 
golan slaves. 136 

Through the first decades of the seventeenth century, when a great number 
of asiento slaves were sold in Cartagena, Vera Cruz, and Buenos Aires, the Span- 
ish silver reals of eight (el real de a ocho) emerged as the most lucrative Portuguese 
export product in Asian markets. 137 Clearly, South Atlantic slave trade was a crit- 
ical component of the world system. 

Corroborating the complementarities of exchanges and routes in the area 
in the 1640s, Salvador de Sa, then Rio de Janeiro governor, and Nassau-Siegen, 
then wic governor of Dutch Brazil, alternately invaded Angola and planned to 
seize Buenos Aires. Well informed about geopolitical stakes in the overseas, the 
Dutch and Portuguese governors assumed that the dominance of the Ethiopic 
Ocean required the possession of Brazil’s plantations, Angola’s slaves, and the 
silver trade in Rio de la Plata. This common strategy challenges today’s schol- 
arly works based on the partition of the South Atlantic in the “Dutch,” “Span- 
ish,” or “Portuguese Atlantic.” 

Because of the elusiveness of such exchanges, the data on silver and slaves 
traded in Rio de la Plata is one of the main unknown records of South America 

the south Atlantic, past and present Luiz Felipe de Alencastro 

economic history. The Potosi silver exported from Buenos Aires to Brazil was 
then sent to Goa to settle the Portuguese trade in Asia. 138 Such transactions drove 
the foundation of Colonia do Sacramento (1680-1750), a key Lisbon smuggling 
enclave fronting Buenos Aires. 

The Luso-Spanish rivalry changed the geopolitical setting in the Ethiopic 
Ocean through the eighteenth century. In 1763, Lisbon transferred the Portu- 
guese America capital from Bahia to Rio de Janeiro. Closer to the gold mine area, 
the new vice-regal capital could also secure Portuguese enclaves in the South 
from Spanish attacks. Spain vainly attempted to breach the Luso-Brazilian 
domination in the southern Atlantic — based on the slave trade — creating the 
vice-kingdom of La Plata (1776). Together with Potosi and the River Plate hin- 
terlands, the new vice-kingdom, sieged in Buenos Aires, comprehend also the 
African islands of Fernando Po and Annobon, as well as the slave trade of Cam- 
eroons and Gabon. 

Again the South Atlantic space was at the center of the Iberian maps, and 
again — as had happened a century before, during the Sugar War against the 
Dutch — the Luso-Brazilian network prevailed over its rivals. Spain was not able 
to develop the slave trade by herself. As demonstrated by the failure of the Com- 
panfa Gaditana de Negros (1765-1799), Madrid lacked the commercial and 
logistical skills to trade in sub-Saharan Africa. 139 

Despite the Luso-Spanish of Treaty of 1 777, which stipulated that the Portu- 
guese should assist Spanish slave traders operating in the new acquired areas in 
Cameroon and Gabon coast, the Spanish attempt to replicate the Luso-Brazilian 
South Atlantic network was unsuccessful. 140 Only after 1788, when all nations 
were able to supply enslaved Africans to Spanish America, were Africans intro- 
duced in great numbers in the Spanish Caribbean, mainly in Cuba. 141 

Recalling the conflicts with the Portuguese, the Brazilians, and the British, 
Argentinean authors praised La Plata’s merchants and authorities, which im- 
proved Buenos Aires’s growth and autonomy from Madrid, depicting some of 
those characters as protonational heroes. 

Hernandarias de Saavedra, the first American-born colonial high authority 
and Buenos Aires governor (1602-1609 and 1615-1618), who introduced ranch- 
ing and barred English and bandeirantes incursions in the region, emerged as 
an iconic forerunner of the Argentina’s independence. Argentinians, as well as 
Uruguayans and Paraguayan authors, studied Buenos Aires colonial merchants’ 
activities in La Plata estuary, Paraguay, and Upper Peru. This network was piv- 


otal in shaping the vice-kingdom of La Plata, and the short-lived Provincias Uni- 
das del Rio de la Plata (1811-1826) aimed to shelter former vice-regal territories 
that were now independent from Spain. 

The diplomat and historian Roberto Lavillier wrote extensively on the sub- 
ject. Another Argentinian historian, Jose Torre Revello, author of documentary 
recollections and essays portraying the vice-regal history, researched also on 
Diego de la Vega, a powerful Portuguese contrabandist in early seventeenth- 
century Buenos Aires. 142 Other noted authors of the first half of the past century, 
such as Ricardo Lavene, Diego Luis Molinari, and Ricardo de Lafuente Machain, 
issued documents and essays on the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century net- 
works of the Rio de la Plata. 143 

Molinari, a historian, diplomat, and politician, published a critical essay on 
the Rio de la Plata slave trade in 1916. Though Molinari’s work had an enlarged 
second edition in 1944, Elena Studer more significantly researched the subject 
some years later. Her book was praised by Frank Tannenbaum as “a milestone 
on the road toward a history of the Negro in South America.” 144 Later, Carlos 
Assadourian studied inland Luso-Spanish networks connecting Potosf silver to 
Angola, Tucuman, Cordoba, and Buenos Aires to Brazilian and Luanda ports in 
his 1966. 145 

Inspired by Argentinean and Iberian historiography, in 1944 Alice P. Cana- 
brava, a former Brazilian disciple of Braudel in the Sao Paulo University, pub- 
lished her book on the Portuguese contraband in the Rio de la Plata throughout 
the Iberian Union (1580-1640). Braudel’s review on Canabrava’s findings — 
where he insists on the Americas’ and the Atlantic’s “united fates” — made her 
book a reference among his followers and specialists on Rio de la Plata. 146 

Like those in Brazil, Argentina’s elites envisioned their African-descent in- 
habitants as a threat to the nation-state and favored European immigration. 147 
In addition, yellow fever epidemics took their toll on the poor white and black 
neighborhoods of Buenos Aires in 1871. 148 By the end of the nineteenth cen- 
tury, the census data show a sharp decline in the Afro-Argentinian population. 
Since then, the “disappearance” of Buenos Aires’s blacks has been discussed in 
Argentina and in United States. “There is probably no other instance in the his- 
tory of colonization where such a large imported colored population has disap- 
peared in such a comparatively short space of time,” wrote Charles L. Chandler, 
the well-informed commentator on Molinari’s pioneering essay on the slave 
trade, in 1917. 149 


the south Atlantic, past and present Luiz Felipe de Alencastro 

Notwithstanding the massive European immigration and the reflux of African- 
Argentinian presence in Buenos Aires, the Rio de la Plata’s past affiliation to the 
black South Atlantic was not concealed. 150 

Belgian Colonial Historiography 

Reaching West Central Africa in the last decades of the nineteenth century, Bel- 
gian officials relied on former Portuguese sources. Notably, Belgian Catholic 
missionaries nurtured a spiritual attachment with seventeenth- and eighteenth- 
century Portuguese Jesuits and Italian Capuchins who wrote the first region’s 
accounts and catechisms aimed at the Kongo kingdom and Angola communi- 
ties. 151 As much as in Portugal, missionary research and writings are an essen- 
tial component of the Belgian historiography on West and Central Africa. 

Still, Portugal was one of oldest territorial, religious, culturally, and linguis- 
tic unified nation-states, where a prior overseas expansion enabled the alliance 
with England in order to protect the country’s frontiers from Spain. By contrast, 
Belgium was a relatively new state practicing a late colonialism. 

In fact, Belgian domination in Congo engendered a patriotism that strength- 
ened the Flemish and Walloon citizens’ support for the state-nation. Thus Joseph 
Conrad’s novel An Outpost of Progress (1897) caricaturized Walloon and Flemish 
Belgian colonialism through two characters, the idiots Carlier (Walloon) and 
Kayerts (Flemish), who pretend to civilize the Congo. 152 

While Portugal’s colonialism strengthened her external, European frontiers, 
the Belgians’ colonialism served to break her internal, domestic frontiers. Con- 
versely, the decolonization led Belgium to a crisis that transformed the country 
unitary government into a federal state in which Flemish and Walloons ceased 
to imagine themselves as members of a unique nation. 

To Canon Louis Jadin, Willy Bal, and other Belgian Africanists who gradu- 
ated from the Universite Catholique de Louvain, the distressing partition of 
their alma mater and Catholic academic stronghold in 1968, amid the divisive 
Walloon and Flemish conflict, could recall, mutatis mutandis, the tragic vanish- 
ing of the Catholic Belgian Congo. 153 

Thus twentieth-century Belgian colonial historiography reflected debates on 
its own national biculturalism, on the diversity of cultural identity, ethnicity, and 
linguistics. It is agreed that Belgian colonialism followed its German and Brit- 
ish counterparts, with an adaptionist strategy of indirect rule in Central Africa, 
contrary to the assimilationist politics of French and Portuguese colonial policies. 


Thus some native languages, such as Lingala, Cibula, Kiswahili, and Kicongo, 
were generally used in the missions and the Belgian colonial administration, 
favoring linguistics and ethnological studies. 154 

Bishop ofMatadi from 1930 until 1962 and missionary in Congo for decades, 
Jean Cuvelier extensively combined oral sources and manuscripts from Euro- 
pean archives to write his essays and to publish important documents on Con- 
golese history. A member of the Redemptorist congregation — the main Belgian 
missionaries in West Central Africa — his works and the documents he analyzed 
and edited with Fr. Louis Jadin influenced two generations of Congo’s histori- 
ans, 155 including, as will see below, Jan Vansina, who studied at the Universite 
Catholique de Louvain, as well as Georges Balandier and W. G. L. Randles. 156 
Accordingly, John Thornton considers Cuvelier “the most influential historian to 
write of Kongo origins.” 157 Substantially based on Portuguese sources and histo- 
rians (Paiva Manso and Ruela Pombo, Arquiuos de Angola) his bio-bibliographical 
notes on Kongo’s historical characters, missionaries, and authors appear as the 
first Kongo kingdom’s prosopography. 158 

Cuvelier’s methods and his interpretations of the Congo’s past inserted oral 
history and linguistics into the core of the Belgian works on West Central Africa. 
His disciples, the canon Louis Jadin (1903-1972) and Francois Bontinck (1920- 
2005), significant missionaries and historians of Congo and Angola, taught 
and researched beside Willy Bal and Jan Vansina in the Universite Lovanium — 
created by 1 ’Universite Catholique de Louvain — in Leopoldville-Kinshasa from 
1954 through 1971. 159 

The independence of the Belgian Congo led to an intensification of the trans- 
lations and studies on Congolese national roots in the Universite Lovanium. In 
a 1962 review of eighty-seven books by specialists of different countries on the 
“Congo ex-Belgian,” Robert Cornevin expressed his admiration for the “dyna- 
mism” of the Universite Lovanium, where researchers and teachers worked 
under difficult circumstances. 160 Three years later, in an equally dense review on 
as many books, he regretted the Congo’s “difficult decolonization” and “bloody 
disorders.” 161 Even though many of the two hundred books on Congo history 
on which he comments include Portuguese sources, Cornevin does not mention 
any Portuguese specialist or missiologist. 

As result of the common ground on Catholicism, missionary history, and 
geographical proximity, the tragedies of the Belgian Congo independence re- 
verberated in several ways in Angola. At first, reshaping her colonial policy and 


the south Atlantic, past and present Luiz Felipe de Alencastro 

distancing itself from failed Belgian, French, and British colonial policies in Af- 
rica, in the early 1960s Lisbon adopted Freyre’s ideas on Brazil’s colonization 
and Lusotropicalism. Such “Colonial exceptionalism,” where the mulattos be- 
come a distinctive feature and a pledge for the Portuguese presence in Africa 
(mainly in Angola), was a policy that brought back the South Atlantic into co- 
lonial and historical debates. 162 Later, as the Angolan independence was pro- 
claimed in Luanda amid a civil war, the Belgian Congo turned into a more dra- 
matic example. Intentionally or not, the recall of the troubles and massacres of 
the first Congo crises (1960-1965) frightened most of the colonists, provoking 
a massive flight from Angola and Mozambique in 1974-1975. 

South Atlantic Historians 

Drawing mostly on published and unpublished Portuguese literature and sources, 
two formative books on the South Atlantic history stand out: Charles Boxer’s 
Salvador de S a and the Struggle for Brazil and Angola, 1602-1686 (1952) and Frederic 
Mauro’s Le Portugal I’Atlantique au XVIIe siecle (i960). 163 Aside from nationalistic 
books, both authors moved beyond the limitations of territorial-based models 
of historical writing to cover the two margins of the South Atlantic. 

Charles Boxer researched and wrote on area studies before World War II. Far 
from Eurocentrism, several of his essays on Portuguese, English, and Dutch 
presence in East Asia, India, and Middle East, remain authoritative to scholarly 
work. 164 His book on Salvador de Sa outlines the first global view of the 1600s 
southern Atlantic Ocean and its European, West Central African, and South 
American extensions, including the Rio de la Plata and Potosi. Unlike Portu- 
guese and Brazilian nationalist historians’ writings on Salvador de Sa’s feats, 
Boxer scrutinizes French, Dutch, British, Spanish, and Portuguese documents. 
His approaches to African history stand apart from the European perspective of 
his sources and his time. As David Birmingham observed, “When the profes- 
sional study of the history of Africa was barely in its infancy,” Boxer’s insightful 
analysis on Angola and Congo complete his approaches on South America and 
European history. 165 On the Brazilian side, Boxer connected, albeit with some 
generalizations, the bandeirantes slave-hunting raids in Paraguay with the mari- 
time trade of enslaved Angolans. He also confirmed previous findings on the 
Rio de Janeiro-Rfo de la Plata connection. 

Besides his scholarship on transcultural societies in the Far East and his ac- 
cess to the Portuguese African bibliography available around the 1940s, Boxer’s 


concern on the cultures of Congo and Angola — a region he did not visit until 
1961 — could arguably have been inspired by recollections of his wife, Emily Hahn, 
the well-known American writer and journalist who lived in Belgian Congo 
during 1931-1932. 166 

While Charles Boxer appeared as a cosmopolitan and eclectic historian, 
Frederic Mauro was a creature of the French academic system. Fernand Braudel 
advised his doctoral thesis, however, and that changed everything. Moreover, 
Mauro’s research relates to that of two other Braudel disciples, Pierre Chaunu 
and Vitorino de Magalhaes Godinho. 

Though his main work is centered on the Estado da India, Magalhaes Go- 
dinho edited crucial documents on the Portuguese Atlantic and wrote an inno- 
vative essay on the South Atlantic exchanges on enslaved Africans and silver 
from Potosi, as well as on sugar and gold from Brazil. His studies on northern 
and western Africa renewed the research on the gold circuit from Gold Coast 
to the Mediterranean. Connections linking the first Angolan governors with the 
Portuguese asentistas, a crucial step for Lisbon’s supremacy in the South Atlan- 
tic, are highlighted in Magalhaes Godinho magisterial thesis on discoveries and 
the world economy. 167 

In the mid-1950s Chaunu, Mauro, and Magalhaes Godinho extended to the 
Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and the Arabian Sea the world system analysis that 
Braudel elaborated focusing on the Mediterranean Sea. Following Braudel’s ob- 
servations in La Mediterrannee, Mauro and Chaunu surveyed historical maritime 
spaces defined as “West Mediterranean” within the Iberian Atlantic. Hence, 
Chaunu classified the seventeenth-century Caribbean as “Seville’s Mediterra- 
nean.” Inspired as well by Robert Ricard, Mauro conceptualized the exchanges 
connecting Madeira, Azores, and Mazagan (present-day El Jadida) as an “Atlan- 
tic Mediterranean.” 168 Before Le Portugal et I’Atlantique, he published an import- 
ant essay on slaves and the slave trade in Portugal’s Atlantic. 

Mauro’s Le Portugal et I’Atlantique, which also benefited from Boxer’s sugges- 
tions, devotes a third of its text to “the ocean and its constraints,” analyzing 
nautical issues, maritime connections, and shipments between South America, 
Africa, and Europe. Nevertheless, its organizational scheme ignores the direct 
South Atlantic exchanges. Focusing on the Brazilian sugar industry, wheat and 
wine exports from the Azores and Madeira Islands (named the “East Atlantic”), 
the maritime transport, price fluctuations, and the exchanges with Europe, Le 


the south Atlantic, past and present Luiz Felipe de Alencastro 

Portugal et I’Atlantique set aside the African history. Mauro compresses into a 
unique subchapter entitled “Slaves” the Amerindian enslavements, the asiertto 
contracts, and the African slave trade. Therein, the political and cultural com- 
plexities of these issues are altogether scrutinized under a short section devoted 
to colonial manpower . 169 

Still, the book’s greatest contribution remains the evidence gathering and 
analysis of the main productions and commodities of the Portuguese Atlantic 
in the seventeenth century. Careful assessment of short cycles and long trends 
on production, seafaring, royal taxes, prices, exchange, and monetary practices 
gives all its significance to Le Portugal et I’Atlantique, which, to many historians, 
served as a complement to Boxer’s Salvador de S a . 170 

Reviewers underlined Braudel’s influence over Mauro’s and Chaunu’s books. 
Nonetheless, Braudel pointed out the discrepancies on the Mediterranean and 
the Atlantic, defining fundamental principles to the writing of the Atlantic his- 
tory. Indeed, to Braudel, the Mediterranean, the oldest maritime space ever en- 
compassed by men, studied by him in the course of the sixteenth century, “at 
the end of its grandeur,” was quite diverse from the Atlantic, “a space which 
borrowed its past and was hastily constructed.” Accordingly, the “global his- 
tory” he tried to expose in La Mediterranee was not seized by Chaunu’s Seville et 
I’Atlantique, which outlined an “arbitrary space of the ocean and not the whole 
Atlantic .” 171 Braudel’s remarks, many of which disavow comparisons between 
Mediterranean and Atlantic history, could likewise apply to other works, partic- 
ularly to Mauro’s book. In addition, there are differences between Chaunu, 
Mauro, and Boxer’s own methods. 

Commenting on Salvador de Sri, Chaunu states that the book belonged to the 
“very great history.” However, involved in his vast statistical research on the 
Spanish empire, Chaunu regrets the lack of quantitative data on price series and 
shipping movements in Boxer’s work. 

The intense research and appraisal of quantitative data undertaken by Chaunu, 
Mauro, Magalhaes Godinho, and many Annales specialists on the Atlantic and 
on the Asian Iberian expansions deserve consideration. 

As a matter of fact, Braudel’s first disciples nurtured a twofold intellectual 
ambition: to emulate La Mediterrane'e’s methods and writing in the field of Atlan- 
tic history and to surpass the findings of Earl Hamilton . 172 Insofar as much of 
the younger generation privileged quantitative studies, Hamilton’s work grew 



in importance to them. Ruggiero Romano, another Braudel disciple and collab- 
orator, once said that every generation of historians has a great book as model 
and challenge: to his generation that book was War and Prices in Spain. 173 

Behind Hamilton’s works lie the international inquiries on the history of 
prices launched by the Great Depression of the 1930s, and the debate on the 
seventeenth-century General Crisis and its outcomes. 174 As an economic his- 
torian inserted in a demanding academic career, Mauro’s oriented his doctoral 
thesis and his book toward issues now considered outdated. As an unconven- 
tional historian and a man of the world, Boxer was more open to the cultural 
contrasts and exchanges of the overseas, an always-current theme. Thus the sig- 
nificance of Mauro’s book is sometimes unfairly forgotten, whereas Saluador de 
Sa has kept all its freshness. 175 In the last years, with the growing interest on 
South Atlantic history, Boxer’s Saluador de Sa, published in 1952 and outlined in 
a 1948 article, has been seen as the founding work in the field. 176 

The South Atlantic Found and Lost by the Annales 

Annales authors’ and Braudel disciples’ misperceptions on the Ethiopic Ocean 
also emerge in an essay by Chaunu on Boxer’s, Mauro’s, and Magalhaes Go- 
dinho’s works. 177 Economic trends, seasonality and the shipping hazards, and 
sailing routes in the Spanish, Portuguese, and Dutch Atlantic are discussed in 

Yet Chaunu only briefly mentions “the Angolan paradoxical exception” — the 
South Atlantic Gyre, which shortens maritime routes and brings Luanda closer 
to Brazil — and “the clear evidences of Brazilian [sic] activities on the African 
coast.” His two remarkable maps on the nautical distances, improving Mauro’s 
maps, do not contain any African port or latitudinal sea route under the equator. 
In his scheme, Lisbon, Cadiz, and their extensions toward the Caribbean and 
South America portray the entire Iberian Atlantic. At that time Chaunu was closely 
surveying the Spanish asientos and the Portuguese role in the African trade. 178 
But he does not raise such issues in his comments, nor does he notice the per- 
spectives previously opened on Congo and Angola history by Salvador de Sa. 

Some factors could explain Braudel’s disciples’ disregard for the South At- 
lantic World. Surveys on the bilateral trade were scarce and unquantified at that 
time. Hitherto the figures and wide-ranging descriptions, in Verger’s 1968 book, 
of the exchanges carried on tobacco and slaves between Bahia and the Bight of 
Benin were not available. 179 

the south Atlantic, past and present Luiz Felipe de Alencastro 

To be sure, the exports of Brazilian sugarcane rum to Africa and the flux of 
trades from Rio de Janeiro to Angola, especially regarding Benguela, were better 
captured and analyzed by later historians. Above all, Mauro and Chaunu sche- 
matization underplays cultural history and takes no account of sub-Saharan 
societies integrate into Atlantic circuits. 180 As we shall see, these methodologi- 
cal and geohistorical limits are manifest in Braudel’s second essential work on 
global history, Civilisation materielle, economie et capitalisme (1979). 

The increasing number of academic studies centered on Brazilian regional 
or territorial history also dampened researches encompassing Angola and the 
Iberian or Dutch South Atlantic. Chaunu’s essay quoted above is entitled “Bresil 
et Atlantique au XVIIe siecle.” In the same vein, in The Dutch in Brazil (1957), 
Boxer segregated the wic occupation in Portuguese America from the one that 
occurred in Angola, scattering the single military front and historical space he 
skillfully described five years before. 181 

Really, Chaunu’s essay on seventeenth-century Brazil and Dutch in Brazil (and 
not in South Atlantic) are encapsulated by the territorial paradigm dominant 
in Brazil’s historiography, a step confirmed in Boxer’s ensuing book on Minas 
Gerais. 182 Yet in the following years Boxer published his book on race relations 
in the Portuguese empire and his comparative approach to four municipal coun- 
cils throughout the Portuguese empire. In this later book, Boxer highlighted the 
imports of Brazilian sugarcane rum (jeribita) in Luanda around 1699, stressing 
the bilateral trade in the South Atlantic network. 183 With the notable exception 
of Pierre Verger’s book (mentioned below), a territorial focus predominates 
among national and foreign authors of Brazil’s history after Salvador de Sa' and 
Le Portugal et I’Atlantique. 

West Central Africa Studies and Disciplinary Divisions 

It is well known that decolonization movements aroused African-centered aca- 
demic research. New universities were inaugurated in French, Belgium, and 
British Africa, while programs on African history grew in the United States and 
Europe. In France, African studies emerged as a response to the dominant field 
of “colonial history.” 184 At Sorbonne, the Centre d’Etudes Africaines, under the 
direction of Georges Balandier, began issuing its Cahiers in i960. Created in 1905 
under instances of a colonial lobby, the Sorbonne’s “Histoire de la Colonisa- 
tion” chair was discontinued in 1961. Later, three new chairs on African studies, 
two in history and one in sociology, were established at the same university. 185 


In the United States, following Philip Curtin’s account, the interest on Africa 
passed from “the Small Awakening of the 1950s” to “the Great Awakening of 
the 1960s.” 186 By that time, under Curtin and Jan Vansina’s direction, the Uni- 
versity of Wisconsin’s African Studies Program was founded in 1961. 

In this context, Africanist scholars published important works on the seven- 
teenth-century history of the Kongo kingdom and Angola, relying, to different 
degrees, on quoted or unquoted manuscript and printed Portuguese sources 
and historiography. Such books initiated the academic studies of West Central 
Africa, which, like African historiography in general, is still dominated by non- 
African scholars. 

In 1966 Jan Vansina published The Kingdoms of the Savannah, defined by Henri 
Brunschwig as the work of the “master of the historical studies essentially based 
on oral sources,” a method then unfamiliar to many French historians. 187 First 
presented as conferences at the University of Wisconsin in 1961 — as newspa- 
pers diffused the tragedies of the Congo Kinshasa First Republic (1960-1965) — 
the book has as a background the dramatic failure of Belgian colonization and 
the resilience of traditional structures within the new African countries. Still, 
Vansina explains that Angola, albeit a colony, is studied beside the major Afri- 
can states of the region: Kongo, Luba, Lunda, Kazembe, and Lozi. To him, at the 
end of the seventeenth century Angola turned out to be “the first substantial” 
colony in Africa. 188 As we will see below, the book was influential in the shaping 
of West Central African nation-state identities in the wake of the independences 
of the region’s countries. 

Georges Balandier, a disciple of Georges Gurvitch and Michel Leiris and a 
leading Africanist in France, in 1965 issued his La vie quotidienne au royaume de 
Kongo du XVIe au XVI He siecle. 189 Although reviewers criticized the book for the 
incomplete and deficient use of written sources, it relies a great deal on the au- 
thor’s previous scholarship and extensive knowledge on contemporary Gabon 
and Congo-Brazzaville. Noteworthy also is his activities in postwar French edi- 
torial, intellectual, and anticolonialist circles, therein making his works essen- 
tial references in African studies. 190 

W. G. L. Randies’s book on the Kongo kingdom (1968), which benefited from 
Balandier’s advice, relied largely on the written and printed Portuguese sources 
missing in previous works. In particular, he was the first Africanist author to make 
extensive use of Fr. Brasio’s mma sources, which were ignored by Balandier and 


the south Atlantic, past and present Luiz Felipe de Alencastro 

barely mentioned by Vansina and Birmingham. Besides the common reference 
on the wic invasion in Brazil and Angola, Randles mentions the Soyo embassy 
received by the Dutch governor in Pernambuco and connections between Brazil, 
the Kongo kingdom, and Angola. 191 

David Birmingham’s Trade and Conflict in Angola (1966) offered the first schol- 
arly history of the Portuguese in West Central Africa, as noted by W. G. L. Ran- 
dles. 192 Aside from the dominant colonialist literature, the book — a turning 
point in the modern historiography on Angola — surveys the 1483-1683 period, 
more precisely the 1600s, focusing on the African’s viewpoint. 193 Beyond the 
colonialist tradition and the nationalistic-oriented authors, Birmingham ap- 
pears today to be the precursor of the contemporary historians of Angola. 

Vansina’s severe review of Birmingham’s book underlined the needed com- 
bination of historical and anthropological methods to study Angola and Kongo: 
“African history deals with African cultures, and there is no escape from an- 
thropology” 194 — even, one could have added, in areas where the written sources 
are richer in sub-Saharan Africa. Conversely, Vansina’s more sharp comments 
on Balandier’s book claim the key role of the historical analysis, blaming the 
author’s uncritical and limited references to the written sources. 195 

Such books point out connections on Angola and Brazil. Following Boxer’s 
and the Angolista authors, Birmingham indicates the impact that governors sent 
from Brazil had in Angola. 196 On his side, Vansina underlines the exports of food 
and the transfer of plants or soldiers from Portuguese America to Angola. Taking 
an expression from Ralph Delgado and Oliveira Martins, he states that Angola 
became “practically a colony of Brazil” after the seventeenth-century Portugal’s 
and Brazil’s expeditions that overcame the Kongo and Ndongo kingdoms. This 
type of historical oddity featured across the South Atlantic has not attracted much 
attention from the numerous scholarly readers of Kingdoms of the Sauannah. 197 

In fact, the above-mentioned works aimed to foster Africanist research and 
do not envision the South Atlantic perspective. Moreover, in Trade and Empire in 
the Atlantic, 1400-1600, a later book that studies the subject more broadly, David 
Birmingham only slightly addresses the South Atlantic historical context. 198 

Written by academics for academics, such books were appropriated by Afri- 
can activists and national elites. Vansina recalled in a interview the unattended 
reception of Kingdoms of the Savanna among Angolan nationalists: “Almost im- 
mediately, a sort of illicit traffic developed, above all in the direction of Angola 



where you were looked upon as a freedom fighter when you were in possession 
of that book!” 199 

That aside, Jean-Luc Vellut, another important representative of the Belgian 
Africanist tradition, criticized the “resistencialism” of late 1960s and 1970s re- 
search on African history. Reviewing the Cambridge History of Africa, he mentions 
Birmingham, and implicitly Vansina as well, arguing that studies centered on 
state building, economic rationality, and the geopolitical advantages of African 
communities in their relationship with Europeans underplay the unequal bal- 
ance of power and the destructive outcomes of the Atlantic slave trade. 200 

As Jean Copans has pointed out, an “Africanism from inside” that was later 
elaborated by Africans researchers challenged this “Africanism from outside.” 201 
One might add that there is also an European Africanism from outside and an- 
other from inside the former colonial metropolises. So, writing from Belgium 
about the polemics on Adam Hochschild’s book on King Leopold II’s crimes in 
Congo, Vellut stated that some critics were unfair, adding: “Vansina is too sub- 
tle a scholar to join this chorus, but he clearly wants to collect some benefits 
from a position of fellow traveller in exile.” 202 

In any case, such scholarly trends led to Africa-centered research and analy- 
sis. As long as Africanists studies understate the Atlantic connections, academic 
specialization hampered surveys on the South Atlantic. 

Meanwhile, the Cuban Revolution stimulated academic programs on Latin 
America and slowed research on global South Atlantic history. A nineteenth- 
century concept framed by the French imperialist policy and an anachronistic 
category when it refers to America’s colonial period, “Latin America” became a 
dominant area specialization in North American and European universities. 203 

In fact, the concept of Latin America as an area specialization developed into 
a disciplinary partition endorsed by most university departments in the Ameri- 
cas and in Europe. This partition rested on the assumption that slavery and re- 
gional slave trade in South America and Caribbean pertain to the Americanist 
field and that correlated themes in sub-Saharan Africa should be studied by 
Africanists. Hence, Brazilianist scholars often researched and wrote on other 
Latin American countries, whereas Dahomey, Congo, Angola, and Mozambique 
comprised a research field reserved for trained Africanists. In this regard, Ali- 
son Games criticizes the “disjunctions that characterized the Atlantic’s histor- 
ical and geographic components” and “disciplinary divisions that discourage 
historians from speaking to and writing for each other.” 204 


the south Atlantic, past and present Luiz Felipe de Alencastro 

An African-Brazilianist Field 

Apart from such territorial-based research, Pierre Verger — more of an academic 
outsider than Charles Boxer — published his book Flux et rejlux de la traite des negres 
(1968). 205 A French-Brazilian fluent in Yoruba who lived in Bahia, Senegal, Ni- 
geria, and Dahomey (renamed Benin in 1975), and a sacred Babalawo (priest of 
Ifa) in Ketu in 1952, Verger relied on Bahia, Lisbon, London, The Hague, Ibadan, 
and Porto Novo archives as well as photos and oral sources. Originally a photog- 
rapher, Verger turned academic researcher under Theodore Monod, Roger Bas- 
tide, and Braudel’s supervision. 206 

Even though the book does not take a perspective on Angola and the global 
South Atlantic history, the unifying survey on the bilateral exchanges between 
Bahia and the Bight of Benin confirm Flux et rejlux as a founding study in the 
Africanist-Brazilianist field. 

Reviewing the book, Curtin wrote, “The slave trade was an Atlantic com- 
merce with profound influence on the history of Europe, Africa, and the two 
Americas. Yet historians have seldom treated it in Atlantic perspective. Pierre 
Verger has done just that. . . . His most significant contribution, indeed, is the 
equal weight he gives to events on either side of the ocean.” On his side, Boxer 
describes the book as “the definitive work on the subject of which it treats.” 207 

However, Verger’s findings and the Bahia-Benin exchanges, which extended 
the research of Luiz Vianna Filho’s 0 Negro na Bahia (1946), were not taken into 
account by decisive books on seventeenth- to nineteenth-century Bahia slavery, 
such as works by Stuart Schwartz and Katia Mattoso, which relied mainly on the 
tradition of the Brazilian territorial history. 208 

In the same way, the transatlantic approach of Flux ct reflux was not incorpo- 
rated by some important French authors of works in either African or Atlantic 
history. Thus the magnitude of bilateral relations between African and South 
American ports is absent in the Histoire generate de I’Afrique Noire (1970), edited by 
Hubert Deschamps. Composed by prestigious Africanists and widely publicized 
in Francophone universities, this collective work presents maps on the Atlantic 
routes in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that do not reflect the direct 
exchanges between the Brazilian ports and the Bight of Benin or Angola and 
Mozambique. 209 

Paul Butel’s Histoire de I’Atlantique: De l’antiquite a nos jours refers to “a global 
history of the ocean.” Although he analyzes the Dutch invasion of Brazil and 
Angola in the seventeenth century and the Chesapeake tobacco trade in the 


eighteenth century — a period he considers “the Golden Age of the Colonial 
Atlantic” — he overlooks the trade between Brazil and Angola and the tobacco 
exports from Bahia to the Bight of Benin. Actually, he does not mention any of 
Boxer’s works, nor does he quote from Verger’s book. 210 

More peculiar is the lack of reference to the South Atlantic network in 
Braudel’s magisterial three-volume Ciuilisation matenelle, economie et capitalisme, 
XVIe-XVIIIe siecles (1979). From his teachings and his discussions with colleagues 
at the Universidade de Sao Paulo, as well as from his knowledge of the field’s 
historiography, Braudel was well aware of the exchanges between South Amer- 
ica and sub-Saharan Africa and of the La Plata and Potosf extensions of the 
South Atlantic network. In fact, reviewing two influential books by the Brazilian 
historian Caio Prado Junior in 1948, Braudel criticized his territorial bias and 
his neglect of the south-south exchanges: “Why did Caio Prado not pay more 
attention to the South Atlantic history?” 211 

Therefore, considering all he wrote, taught, and discussed with his students, 
Braudel’s analysis of the slave trade and Africa is rather unexpected. In Ciuili- 
sation matenelle he allots just a few pages to western and sub-Saharan Africa. 
Broadly, he commends Curtin’s “prodigious innovative” book on inland and 
maritime slave trade in Senegambia and endorses traditional surveys on the “tri- 
angular trade” between Liverpool or Nantes, West Africa, and the Caribbean. 
Concluding, he assesses without any restriction the triangular trade and adds: 
“This scheme is the same mutatis mutandis for all the Slave ships.” 212 

Braudel does not take in account the figures or the geographical distribution — 
quite accurately indicated in Curtin’s Census (1968) — of Atlantic slave trade. Sur- 
prising, he neither comments on nor quotes from the work of Pierre Verger, 
whose thesis he directed and whose book he promoted and published in France. 
Had he done so, he would have brought into consideration the core of the South 
Atlantic slave network, that is, the bilateral trade between Brazil and Africa. 

Aside from the disregard of the south-south exchanges, another essential 
matter was understated by most of the postwar authors, not least because of in- 
accurate global data: the increase in slave trade due to the Industrial Revolution 
in the first half of the nineteenth century. This issue has also been raised regarding 
the discussion on the Williams-Drescher debate. 213 As later research has shown, 
one-fourth of the transatlantic slave trade occurred after the 1807 British and 
United States Abolition Acts. Most of these nineteenth-century deportees, around 
70 percent of them, crossed the South Atlantic and disembarked in Brazil. 214 

the south Atlantic, past and present Luiz Felipe de Alencastro 

Another important factor behind the neglect of South Atlantic studies con- 
cerns the uneasiness of some historians from European maritime powers, and 
from Brazil for that matter, to discuss their countries’ participation in the slave 
trade — not to mention authors who overlook or even deny such issues. 

Caught in a harsh dispute with Portuguese historians about Luso-African 
racial relations, Charles Boxer alluded to it in 1969. Emphasizing Verger’s 
French-Brazilian-Nigerian multicultural identity, he writes: “Verger’s neutral 
nationality enables him to steer his way through this complicated and contro- 
versial subject [the slave trade] with admirable impartiality.” 215 

One of the great merits of Philip Curtin’s Census, published in 1968, was to set 
comparable, reliable, and largely accepted data on the traffic promoted by the 
European nations in the various regions of Africa. Even though these data (and 
the subsequent Transatlantic Slave Trade Database, completed and organized 
by D. Eltis, D. Richardson, and others) had not granted an “admirable impar- 
tiality” everywhere, they allowed historians to have a comprehensive view of the 
issue, thus instilling in most of them a “neutral nationality” that made them 
more apt to study the Atlantic slave trade. 

Ultimately, the defining features of the South Atlantic network are the bilat- 
eral exchanges with Africa and the coupling of the Brazilian slavery and slave 
trade with the industrial production and free trade movement in England. As 
in many key issues in history, the main distinction between North and South 
Atlantic history lies in the periodization. As we saw in the first paragraphs of 
this article, the end of the Brazilian slave trade and the close of the Sailing Age 
decreased the geopolitical significance of the South Atlantic Gyre and of the 
Ethiopic Ocean denotation, opening another era in Atlantic history. 

Unified by steamships, the new Atlantic circumscribed its latitudinal routes 
to its northern area. Instead, longitudinal navigation connecting Europe and the 
United States to the South American and African ports displayed the new inter- 
national division of labor and the North’s dominance over the South. Until the 
1980s the airline connections matched this framework. By that time, to travel 
from Buenos Aires, Bahia, or Rio de Janeiro to Lagos or Luanda, one had to go 
through Lisbon or London. Flying from Rio de Janeiro to Mozambique, the trav- 
eler went first to London, then to Johannesburg, and then to Louren^o Marques- 

Reviewing Rodrigues’s Africa e Brasil in 1962, D. Birmingham wrote: “The em- 
phasis on the importance of South America in the history of Africa is especially 



valuable. The two continents have so little contact today that we need to be 
reminded of their interdependence in the past .” 216 Postcolonial geopolitics in 
the South Atlantic changed those issues some, but not much. As Canizares- 
Esguerra and Breen recently observed, “Northwestern Europeanization” still 
stands as a normative model in Atlantic World narratives . 217 

Stressing their own culture since their nations’ independence, South Ameri- 
cans have asseverated to North Americans and to Europeans that they are also 
themselves Americans. Thanks to the new nations of Africa, the main constitu- 
ent of Caribbean and eastern South America, we shall not have to wait two more 
centuries to establish that South Atlantic history is also Atlantic history. 


1. Lois and Garcia, “Do Oceano dos classicos aos Mares dos imperios”; Peterson, 
Stramma, and Kortum, “Early Concepts and Charts of Ocean Circulation.” Aside from 
an English translation ofZurara’s Cronica, this long essay bluntly ignores the abundant 
Portuguese charts, sources, and literature on the topic. See, for instance, Cortesao and 
Mota, Portugaliae Monumenta Cartographica. 

2. Monet, Abrege du parallele des langues Jrarifoise et latine repporte au plus pres de leurs pro- 
prietez, 27. Hence, sub-Saharans peoples living in West Africa were named “Western Ethi- 
opians,” while those living in East Africa were called “Eastern Ethiopians.” Du Jarric, 
Histoire des choses plus memorables aduenues tant ez Indes Orientates, 25. Likewise, Bluteau, a 
learned Jesuit lexicographer, located the Mar Ethiopico on the southeastern coast of Af- 
rica and named the southern Atlantic Mar da Ethiopia or Mar do Brasil. Bluteau, Vocabu- 
lario Portuguez & Latino, 6:34. 

3. Blaeu, Noua Totius Terrarum Orbis Geographica Ac Hydrographica Tabula. See also Duval, 
Le planisphere autrement la carte du monde terrestre ou sont exactement descrites toutes les terres decou- 
uertes jusqu’a prAent; Dampier, Voyages and descriptions, Volume II. 

4. Philander, “Atlantic Ocean Equatorial Currents.” See also South Atlantic Ocean: West- 
ern Portion [1871], drawn by E. J. Powell (London: Admiralty Charts, 1891), 
.au/ (accessed September 2013). 

5. The Cyclopaedia states: “The Atlantic is divided into three principal basins: the 
Southern or Ethiopic, from the Antarctic Ocean to the narrows between Cape San Roque 
and Senegambia; the Middle or Atlantic proper from the same narrows to the range of 
islands formed by the British and Faroe islands and Iceland; and the Northern or Artie.” 
Ripley and Dana, The American Cyclopaedia, 2:69. 

6. Illustrating the Ethiopic Ocean’s asymmetry, the northern boundary of the map is 
located at 8 degrees N, whereas its complementary map of the Northern Hemisphere 


the south Atlantic, past and present Luiz Felipe de Alencastro 

shows the equator as its southern limit. According to the John Carter Brown Library’s 
cartobibliographic note, the map was engraved by John Senex in 1763 and issued later by 
William Herbert as A New Map, or Chart in Mercator’s Projection of the Ethiopic Ocean with Part 
of Africa and South America; Herbert, A New Map, or Chart in Mercators Projection, of the Western 
or Atlantic Ocean with Part of Europe, Africa and South America, 
luna/servlet/s/oe6wz6 and http://jcb.lunaimaging.eom/luna/servlet/s/a5g39p (accessed 
September 2013). 

Other maps locate the northern boundary at 3 degrees N; see J. F. Dessiou, A Chart of 
the Ethiopic or Southern Ocean and part of the Pacific Ocean . . . (London: W. Faden, 1808), (accessed September 2013). 

7. Robertson, The Elements o/Navigation, 1:173, 1:179; Findlay, A Sailing Directory for the 
Ethiopic or South Atlantic Ocean, 1-2; Ripley and Dana, The American Cyclopaedia, 2:69. 

8. Eltis and Richardson, Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, 159-161. 

9. Alden, “Yankee Sperm Whalers in Brazilian Waters.” 

10. During the illegal African trade to Brazil (1831-1850) and Cuba (1820-1867), 
slave trade ships disguised themselves as whaling ships to avoid Royal Navy surveillance. 
Warrin, So ends this day — The Portuguese in American Whaling 1765-1927, 152-157. 

11. Aside from the chief catch areas within the North Atlantic, important sperm and 
humpback whale catches also occurred around the Tropic of Capricorn, close to the Bra- 
zilian and Angolan coasts. Smith et al., “Spatial and Seasonal Distribution of American 
Whaling and Whales in the Age of Sail.” 

12. Moment, “The Business of Whaling in America in the 1850s.” 

13. Rennell’s daughter, Jane Rodd, published his work posthumously. Rennel, An 
Investigation of the Currents of the Atlantic Ocean . . . , 166, 174, 225. 

14. The presence of free or enslaved black seamen stands as a characteristic feature 
of the Luso-Brazilian slave trade. Klein, The Atlantic Slave Trade, 85-86; De Moraes, “La 
champagne negriere du Sam Antonio e as Almas (1670)”; Pinho Candido, “Different Slave 

15 . Medeiro dos Santos, A Produfdo das Minas do Alto Peru e a Evasao de Prata para 0 Brasil; 
Muniz Barreto, “O fluxo de moedas entre o Rio da Prata e o Brasil, 1800-1850.” 

16. Total voyages to Brazil, including those that left Portugal’s ports, amount to 
18,850 resulting in the embarkment of 5.8 million deportees and the disembarkment 
of 4,864,374 African deportees. They came from two main areas: the Bight of Benin 
(904,000 enslaved); and West Central Africa, mainly Angola (3,656,000 individuals); cal- 
culated from the Transatlantic Slave Trade Database (hereafter TSTD), http://www. slave (accessed September 2013). 

17. Voyage de Francois Pyrard, 231-232. 

18. Figueiredo, Hidrographia, exame de pilotos. Mariz de Carneiro, Regimento de pilotos. 



19. Even so, there is the known case of Mar^al Luiz, a skilled but illiterate master 
who commanded vessels of the Carreira da India for more than twenty-eight years at 
the turn of the seventeenth century; see do Amaral Frazao de Vasconcellos, Pilotos das 
navegafies portuguesas dos seculos XVI e XVII; Contente Domingues, “Horizontes mentais dos 
homens do mar no seculo XVI”; Polonia, “Arte, tecnica e ciencia nautica no Portugal 

20. Caldas, Noticia Geral de Toda Esta Capitania da Bahia. 

21. Joze Fernandes Portugal, Carta Reduzida da parte Meridional do Oceano Atlantico ou 
Occidental desde 0 Equador a the 3 8°-20 ' de latitude (Lisbon, 1802). Printed in Lisbon, the 
chart was sold in Brazil and Europe. 

22. As shown in his 1799 map of the currents in the Atlantic, and by his descriptions, 
Rennell labels the coastal maritime zones from Liberia to the Congo the “Ethiopic Sea” 
and uses the name “South Atlantic” for most of the subequatorial ocean. Still, he de- 
scribes and draws the northeastern limits of the South Atlantic currents at 10 degrees N; 
Rennel, An Investigation of the Currents of the Atlantic Ocean . . . , 25, 99. See also the West 
Atlantic map, schrier/Krt_A.pdf and the East Atlantic http:// schrier/KrtJB.pdf (accessed 21 October 2013). See also Peterson, 
Stramma, and Kortum, “Early Concepts and Charts of Ocean Circulation.” 

23. Eltis and Richardson, Atlas of the Transatlantic Slaue Trade, 2, 159. 

24. TSTD (accessed November 2013). 

25. Eltis and Richardson, Atlas of the Transatlantic Slaue Trade, 39, 120-122, 124, 141- 
I 43 , 1 49 , 1 5 I-I 53 , 1 5 ^- 

26. Leite, Historia da Companhia de Jesus no Brasil, 8:398. Like many authors, I use 
“Congo” for the river’s basin or today’s two countries in the area, and “Kongo” for the 
historical African kingdom whose capital was Mbanza Kongo or Sao Salvador do Congo. 

27. Curto, Enslauing Spirits, table 9. 

28. Verger, Flux et reflux de la traite de necjres entre legolfe de Benin et Bahia de Todos os Santos, 
and its English translation, Trade Relations betiueen the Bicjht of Benin and Bahia; Nardi, 0 junto 
brasileiro no periodo colonial. 

29. de Alencastro, “Continental Drift — -The Independence of Brazil, Portugal and 

30. Ferreira, “Supply and Deployment of Horses in Angolan Warfare.” 

31. In the words of his sermon: “The captivity of the first transmigration [the Middle 
Passage] is ordained by Her [Our Lady of the Rosary] mercy for freedom in the second 
[the passage from Brazil to Heaven].” Vieira, “Sermao XXVII do Rosario,” 4:1205. 

32. Boxer, A Great Luso-Brazilian Figure. 

33. ManiconcjoisthelusitanizednameofMani (Lord) Nzinga Nkuiuu, the king of Kongo 
who took the name of John I after Portuguese missionaries baptized him in 1491. Cortesao 


the south Atlantic, past and present Luiz Felipe de Alencastro 

and Teixeira Mota, Portugaliae Monumenta Cartographica, 1:113-114, 5:22-24, and maps 

34. Halperin Donghi, Histoire contemporaine de iAmerique latine, 83, 95; Bushnell, “In- 
dependence Compared.” 

35. Curtin believes that there was a general “counterrevolution in Spanish America,” 
including Brazil, in the aftermath of the nineteenth-century independences. Curtin, The 
Rise and Fall of the Plantation Complex, chap. n. 

36. Purdy, Memoir, Descriptive and Explanatory, to Accompany the New Chart 0/ the Ethiopic 
or Southern Atlantic Ocean, and The New Sailing Directory for the Ethiopic or Southern Atlantic 
Ocean. In 1874, Findlay updated the guide and excluded Purdy’s name from the cover. 
Findlay, A Sailing Directory for the Ethiopic or South Atlantic Ocean, 1. 

37. Bridging the Atlantic, 25. The IPEA is a federal public foundation affiliated to the 
Strategic Affairs Secretariat of Brazil’s presidency. 

38. Following N. Steensgaard, Barendse studied the Arabian Seas “network,” de- 
fined as a “number of nodal points standing in a few relations, social, religious and eco- 
nomic, to other nodal points.” Barendse, “Trade and State in the Arabian Seas.” 

39. Referring to the networks connecting Potosi, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Bahia, 
Luanda, Lisbon, and Cadiz around American, African, and European trade, Jeremy Adel- 
man underscored the significance of a “South Atlantic system.” Sovereign and Revolution 
in the Iberian Atlantic, 73-100 . 1 mentioned a “slavery South Atlantic system” in 0 Trato dos 
Viventes, 242. Elsewhere I used the term “Capricorn Archipelago” to designate the social 
and economic space formed by the formed by the Rio de la Plata and the Portuguese en- 
claves on the two shores of the South Atlantic. 

40. Armitage, “Three Concepts of Atlantic History”; Russell-Wood, “Sulcando os 

41. This section’s subhead refers to a weak spot in the Earth’s magnetic field whose 
center is off the coast of Brazil; magnetosphere specialists call it the “South Atlantic 
Anomaly.” “‘Dip’ on Earth Is Big Trouble in Space,” New York Times, June 5, 1990. 

42. West and Martin, “A Future with a Past”; Lowe, “Resurrection How? A Response 
to Michael O. West and William G. Martin’s Article”; West and Martin, “Return to Sender.” 

43. Marx’s quote follows: “These methods depend in part on brute force, e.g., the 
colonial system. But, they all employ the power of the State, the concentrated and orga- 
nized force of society, to hasten, hot-house fashion, the process of transformation of the 
feudal mode of production into the capitalist mode, and to shorten the transition.” Marx, 
Capital, book 1, chap. 31, “The Genesis of the Industrial Capitalist,” online edition, ed. 
Frederick Engels and Ernest Untermann, trans. Samuel Moore and Edward Aveling (Chi- 
cago: Charles H. Kerr and Co., 1906), 
mrxCpA3i.html#VIII.XXXI.5 (accessed November 2013). 



44. On his chapter on colonial policies, Max Weber writes: “Two main types of ex- 
ploitation are met with: the feudal type in the Spanish and Portuguese colonies, the 
capitalistic in the Dutch and English.” Weber, General Economic History, 298. On the oppo- 
sition between the “decadent” Iberian Atlantic and the “modernity” of the British and 
Dutch Atlantic, see Canizares-Esguerra and Breen, “Hybrid Atlantics.” 

45. Sundiata, “Capitalism and Slavery”; Walvin, “Why Did the British Abolish the 
Slave Trade?” 

46. The US Census Bureau includes Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North 
Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia in the 
“South Atlantic” Division. The Library of Congress site of Map Collections utilizes “South 
Atlantic” relating only to the US southern states. 

47. Curtin, Two Jamaicas, 4-5. 

48. Curtin, The Rise and Fall of the Plantation Complex, 188-189. 

49. “The South Atlantic System had its center in Brazil and the West Indies; sugar 
was its main product.” Henretta and Brody, America: A Concise History, 74. See also Sun- 
diata, “Capitalism and Slavery,” 121-130, 124. 

50. Barnard, “Bernard Bailyn, Atlantic History: Concept and Contours.” 

51. Mann, “Shifting Paradigms in the Study of the African Diaspora and of Atlantic 
History and Culture.” Mann, who criticizes also the “extraordinary myopia” of authors 
who ignore Africa’s role in the formation of the Atlantic, writes that Bailyn also under- 
plays the reflections of African American intellectuals on the Atlantic World. Coates, 
E-Journal o/Portuguese History; Games, “Atlantic History,” 434-435. 

52. Bailyn, Atlantic History, 32. 

53. Defining the TTIP, a researcher of a Dutch think-tank report states: “It is more 
than a game-changer, but the best chance the transatlantic West has to advance a liberal 
world order for the 21st century.” Van Ham, The Geopolitics o/TTIP. 

54. Edward Snowden’s revelations show a more dense and transoceanic core within 
the “Atlantic civilization” geopolitics. To the displeasure of France and Germany’s lead- 
ers, it was widely publicized that the US National Security Agency shares signal intelli- 
gence data only with Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand, the so- 
called “Five Eyes.” The US-UK coalition corresponds to the geopolitical bloc that French 
politicians and intellectuals defined, since the mid-nineteenth century, as “les pays Anglo- 
Saxons.” By that time, the middle of the nineteenth century, the cultural and regional 
definition of “Latin America” emerged in France as an opposite transnational bloc led 
by Paris. 

55. The issue was also raised in a debate with Paul Gilroy in the Institut des Hautes 
Etudes de 1 ’Amerique Latine, in Paris, on 1 June 2007, 
.asp?id=i2i3&url=/i2i3/accueil.asp (accessed November 2013). 


the south Atlantic, past and present Luiz Felipe de Alencastro 

56. Gilroy, OAtlantico Negro, 10-11. Differences between North and South Atlantic his- 
tory have been studied by several Brazilian historians, including Joao Jose Reis, Roqui- 
naldo Ferreira, Manolo Florentino, Flavio Gomes, and Mariana Candido. In addition, see 
the discussion of the seminal works of Charles Boxer and Pierre Verger in this article. 

57. Greene and Morgan, Atlantic History. 

58. Canny and Morgan, The Oxford Handbook of the Atlantic World, 1450-1850. 

59. Eltis, “Economic Growth and the Ending of the Transatlantic Slave Trade”; To- 
mich, “The ‘Second Slavery.’” 

60. On Latin American history, see Bulmer-Tomas, Coatsworth, and Conde, intro- 
duction to The Cambridge Economic History of Latin America, 1:1-4. The authors argue that 
1850 marked the beginning of Latin America globalization, ignoring the abrupt end of 
the three-centuries-long African deportation to South America and Cuba. On African 
history, see Inikori, “Africa and the Globalization Process.” Although Inikori aptly states 
that “for all practical purposes, Brazil was an extension of Africa during the period in 
question” (79), he does not mention the end of the Brazilian Atlantic slave trade in 1850. 

61. Law, “International Law and the British Suppression of the Atlantic Slave Trade”; 
Mann, Slavery and the Birth of an African City, 3, 99. 

62. The embarkments to the Americas between 1841-1850 and 1851-1860 fell from 
455,755 to 134,135 individuals (-70.5 percent). To Brazil the decline was from 400,016 
to 6,899 individuals (-98.2 percent). From i860 until the end of slave trade in Cuba, and 
in the Atlantic (1867), 37,124 more deportees would cross the Ocean. TSTD, accessed 
October 2013. 

63. In his insightful essay on Argentina and South Africa, Philip Curtin uses the 
expression “South Atlantic World.” Curtin, “Location in History.” See also K. G. Davies, 
The North Atlantic World in the Seventeenth Century. The book describes the British, French, 
and Dutch as well as, notably, West Africa, but it also eschews, Mexico, Cuba, and the 
Spanish possessions in the North Atlantic. Furthermore, as noted by Pauline Croft, the 
exclusion of the South Atlantic connection limits the scope of Davies’s analysis. See Croft, 
“The North Atlantic World in the Seventeenth Century by K. G. Davies.” 

64. See Fr. J. Mathias Delgado in de Cadornega, Histo'ria Geral das Guerras Angolanas 
escrita no ano de 1681, 1:98, n. i; Heintze, “Angola nas garras do trafico de escravos — As 
guerras do Ndongo, 1611-1630,” 15-16; John C. Miller, “The Imbangala and the Chronol- 
ogy of Early Central African History,” 568 n. 73; Curtin, The Atlantic Slave Trade, 108-112; 
Thornton, “The Portuguese in Africa,” 153. 

65. Schwartz, Sugar Plantations in the Formation of Brazilian Society, 51-72. 

66. Brasio, Monumenta Missionaria Ajficana, 2nd series (Africa Ocidental oeste) [MMA 2 ], 
1:277-286; De Witte, “Les Bulles pontificales et l’expansion portugaise au XVe siecle,” 
5-46, 443-471, 455. 



67. In another illustration of the disciplinary bias that obliterate South Atlantic his- 
tory, John Thornton, one of the leading specialists on Kongo history, ignores the connec- 
tions between the South Atlantic wars and the essential role of the militias from Brazil 
and South America’s tropical tactics in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Angola, 
which changed the fate of some Portuguese campaigns, including Mbwila (1665), argu- 
ably the main colonial battle in modern Africa. Thornton, Waijare in Atlantic Africa. See de 
Alencastro, “South Atlantic Wars”; Ferreira, “O Brasil e a arte da guerra em Angola (secs. 

68. Puntoni, A guerra dos barbaros. 

69. Eltis and Richardson, Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, map 26, 47. 

70. Brasio, MMA, 1st series, 13:435-437. 

7 1. Ferreira, “O Brasil e a arte da guerra em Angola.” 

72. Loreto do Couto, “Desagravos do Brazil e Glorias de Pernambuco,” 68-69, 85-86. 

73. Pardo, “A Comparative Study of the Portuguese Colonies of Angola and Brasil 
and Their Interdependence from 1648 until 1825.” 

74. Hawthorne, From Africa to Brazil. 

75. Gray, “Benin and the Europeans, 1485-18 gy by A. F. C. Ryder; L’ancien royaume du 
Congo des origines a la jin du XIXe siecle by W. G. L. Randles.” 

76. Referring to the anniversary of 1140 (when Afonso Henriques create the indepen- 
dent kingdom of Portugal) and 1640 (the Restoration of the Portuguese Crown under Bra- 
ganza’s dynasty), the celebrations were entitled “The Double Centenary of the Nationality.” 
Most of the 482 papers presented were published in the Proceedings of the Conference, 
Congresso do Mundo Portugues, 19 vols. (Lisbon: Comissao Executiva dos Centenarios, 1940). 
On the ideological context of the Conference, see Calafate Ribeiro, “Empire, Colonial 
Wars and Post-Colonialism in Portuguese Contemporary Imagination,” esp. 158-162. 

77. Renamed Agenda Geral do Ultramar in 1951. The prominent Portuguese com- 
munity in Rio de Janeiro held studies on overseas history. Commemorating the centenary 
of Brazil’s Independence (1922), the “Gabinete Portugues de Leitura,” a Portuguese Li- 
brary and Cultural Center in Rio de Janeiro since 1837, funded the Historia da Colonizagao 
Port uguesa do Brasil, 3 vols. (Porto: Litografia Nacional, 1921-1924). Edited by Carlos Mal- 
heiros Dias, the work had among its authors Duarte Leite, Oliveira Lima, Pedro Azevedo, 
and Jaime Cortesao. In Portugal as in Brazil, Salazarists and anti-Salarists shared the 
same admiration for Portuguese colonial expansion. Hence, Bertho Conde, a Brazilian 
antifascist journalist, lectured in the Gabinete on Salvador de Sa’s 1648 expedition to 
Angola. Conde, “Sobre a restauragao de Angola.” During the 1930s, the Sociedade Lu- 
so-Africana do Rio de Janeiro published the Boletim da Sociedade Luso-Ajricana. See Paulo, 
“Os ‘Insubmissos da Colonia’”; Mansur da Silva, “O exilio anti-salazarista no Brasil e a 
memoria da resistencia.” 


the south Atlantic, past and present Luiz Felipe de Alencastro 

78. During the nineteenth century, Brazil’s independence inspired timely reflections 
to Lisbon’s colonial policy, chiefly in Angola. See Martins, 0 Brasil e as colonias portuguesas; 
Polanah, ‘“The Zenith of our National History!”’ 

79. Prestage, Correspondence diplomatica de Francisco de Sousa Coutinho durante a sua em- 
baixada em Holanda, translated as The Diplomatic Relations of Portugal with France, England, 
and Hollandfrom 1640 to 1 668 . 

80. Watjen, Das HoIIandische Kolonialreich in Brasilien, translated as 0 dormhio colonial 
hollandez no Brasil. 

81. Lucio de Azevedo, Cartas do pe. Antonio Vieira and Historia de Antonio Vieira. 

82. Leite, Historia da Companhia de Jesus no Brasil. 

83. Cortesao, Alexandre de Gusmao e 0 Tratado de Madrid, Raposo Tauares e a/ormagao terri- 
torial do Brasil, and 0 Ultramar Portugues depois da Restauragao. The author also dismissed the 
“fascist Iberism,” strengthened by Franco’s victory in Spain and backed by salazarist 
authors, which downplayed the historical antagonism between Madrid and Lisbon during 
the 1940 commemorations. 

84. Correia Lopes, A Escrauatura. 

85. Directed by the Liceu Salvador Correia de Sa’s staff in Luanda, the journal Arquiuos 
de Angola (1933) aimed to publish documents on Angolan history. 

86. Involved in a monarchist plot, Manuel Ruela Pombo (1888-1960) left Portugal to 
Brazil in 1912. Settled as a parish priest in Sapucaf, Minas Gerais, he wrote on Alvarenga 
Peixoto (1744-1793). A local poet and lawyer, Alvarenga Peixoto was involved in the 1789 
Independentist Conspiracy and was deported to Angola in 1792. Ruela Pombo completed 
his research in Luanda; see “Inconfidencia mineira 1789.” He is one of the first authors 
to research at Luanda’s Governo Geral, Camara Municipal, and Diocesan archives; Ruela 
Pombo, Cinzas de Lisboa, 5-6; de Paiva, Biohihliografa do Padre Ruela Pombo. 

87. The Spiritan journal Portugal em Africa published the second volume of Cardone- 
ga’s work in 1902. Later annotated and edited by the Angola’s missionary Jose Mathias 
Delgado (1865-1932), the first volume of Cadornega’s work was formerly printed in 
chapters in Diogo Caao, 1931-1935. All three volumes were later published by the Agencia 
Geral das Colonias: de Cadornega, Historia Geral das Guerras Angolanas escrita no ano de 1681, 
3 vols. 

88. Hair, “An Inquiry Concerning a Portuguese Editor and a Guinea Text.” 

89. Heintze, “Antonio de Oliveira de Cadornegas Geschichtswerk”; Mogo Demaret, 
“Portugueses e Africanos em Angola no seculo XVII.” 

90. Canon Jose Mathias Delgado, in de Cadornega, HGGA, i:xix. 

91. Joseph C. Miller, Way of Death, 500. 

92. Manuel Murias (1900-1960) played a key role both in the setting of historical re- 
search and editions and in the organization of the 1940s Congresso do M undo Port ugues. He 



directed the Arquivo Historico Colonial (later Arquivo Historico Ultramarino) and was 
influential in the Agenda Geral das Colonias. Such institutions mandated most of the 
research on Portuguese Africa and Asia at that time. Angola’s Commissary of the 1940 
commemorations, Ralph Delgado, was asked by Angola’s governor to write A Famosa e 
Historico Bermuda — Catalogo dos Gouernadores 1779-1940. Later Delgado published his His- 
toria de Angola, the main work of the Angolista historiography. 

93. Eannes de Zurara, Chronica do descobrimento e conquista de Guine, v-xviii. 

94. De Paiva Manso, Bahia de Lourenco Marques; Garrido, 0 Visconde de Paiua Manso. 

95. In 1876, Leopold II founded the Association Internationale Africaine in Brussels. 
By that time, Paiva Manso was writing a history of the Congo. His premature death in 
1875 led to the posthumous publication of his collected documents as Histo'ria do Congo. 
Later, Theophile Simar, a noted Belgian historian of Central Africa, wrote that the “hasty 
publication” of Paiva Manso’s work “had no other goal than to prove to the European 
powers the validity of the Portuguese claims.” Simar, “Les sources de 1 ’histoire du Congo 
anterieurement a 1’epoque des grandes decouvertes.” 

96. Braga da Cruz, “As negociagoes da Concordata e do Acordo Missionario de 

97. Straelen, Missions catholiques et protestantes au Congo; Braekman, Histoire du protes- 
tantisme au Congo. 

98. Bailyn, Atlantic History, 12. 

99. Severiano Teixeira, “Da neutralidade ao alinhamento.” 

100. The Portuguese Church eventually lost (1953) guardianship over the Indian dio- 
ceses (the “Padroado do Oriente”), as Lisbon rule over the remnants of the Estado da 
India ended in 1961. Documenta$ao Para a Histdria das Missoes do Padroado Portugues do Oriente: 
India 1548-1550, 10 vols. (Lisbon: Agenda Geral das Colonias, 1947-1958), i:v. 

101. Da Silva Rego, A dupla restauragao de Angola. 

102. Brasio, Monumenta Misstonaria Afikana, 1st series (Africa Ocidental central) [MMA 1 ]. 

103. Ernoult, Les Spirit ains au Congo , 11-13. 

104. Anon., Civiliiando Angola e Congo os missionaries do Espirito Santo no padroado espiri- 
tual portugues, 17-19, 43-46, 72. 

105. Canon Jose Mathias Delgado, in de Cadornega, HGGA, i:xix. 

106. “A Revista ‘Portugal em Africa,” 
ID=82 (accessed September 2013). Brasio’s numerous articles and essays are reunited in 
Histo'ria e missiologia. 

107. See Birmingham, “Merchants and Missionaries in Angola,” and Plecard, “‘Eu 
sou Americano.’” 

108. Consul Carnauba to the Brazilian Ministery of Foreign Affairs, September 1961; 
see Aragon, “Chancellery Sepulchers,” 132. 


the south Atlantic, past and present Luiz Felipe de Aiencastro 

109. Brasio, MMA 1 , i2:xiii-xiv. 

no. On Portugal’s African studies, see Maino, “Pour une genealogie de 1 ’Africanisme 
! Portugais.” 

in. Alden, The Making of an Enterprise. This bias is not shared by Fr. Francisco Leite de 
Faria, who wrote important works on the Capuchin missionaries on both sides of the 
South Atlantic. See, for instance, Os barbadinhosfranceses e a restaurafao pernambucana and 
A situafdo de Angola e Congo appreciada em Madrid 1643. 

112. Murilo de Carvalho, A Formafdo das Almas, chap. 3; Nivia de Lima e Fonseca, “A 
Inconfidencia Mineira e Tiradentes vistos pela imprensa”; de Castro Vieira Christo, 
“Gonzaga bordando.” 

113. Cabral de Mello, Rubro ueio. 

114. Gonsalves de Mello, Joao Fernandes Vieira, 330-356; the book has 495 pages. After 
his governorship in Angola, Fernandes Vieira followed closely from Recife the events 
in Congo and Angola, during the governorship of his fellow commander Andre Vidal de 
Negreiros (1659-1665) and beyond. 

115. Varnhagen, Histdria geral do Brasil. The suppressed section (1st ed., 37) referred 
to Joao Fernandes Veira and Andre Vidal de Negreiros’s governments in Angola (1658— 

116. de Abreu, Chapters in Brazil’s Colonial History 1500-1800. 

117. Luiz Alves, “A Questao do Elemento Servil.” Later, Leslie Bethell renewed the 
studies on England and the Brazilian slave trade; Bethell, The Abolition of the Brazilian Slave 

118. The issue remains pertinent; see Weindl, “The Asiento de Negros and Inter- 
national Law.” 

119. Guran, Agudas; Amos and Ayesu, “Sou brasileiro.” 

120. Romo, “Rethinking Race and Culture in Brazil’s First Afro-Brazilian Congress 
of 1934.” 

121. Ribeiro da Lessa, Cronica de uma embaixada luso-brasileira a Costa d’Africa em jins do 
secuto XVIII, x. 

122. Recenseamento Geral do Brasil — 1940, vol. 2. 

123. Goulart, A Escrauidao Africana no Brasil. 

124. In fact, Affonso Taunay and Edmundo Correia Lopes had already initiated such 
data clarification; Taunay, Subsidios para a Histo'ria do Trajico Africano no Brasil. 

125 . Eltis, Economic Growth and the Ending of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. 

126. First published in Brazil (Rio de Janeiro: J. Olympio, 1940), the book had a Por- 
tuguese edition with a more explicitly and programmatic title 0 mundo que 0 portugues 
criou: Aspectos das relates sociais e de cultura do Brasil com Portugal e as colonias portuguesas. In 
his preface, Antonio Sergio, a liberal and anti-Salazarist historian and writer who knew 



Portuguese Africa well, comments Freyre’s ideas and Portuguese colonization without 
mentioning Portugal’s and Brazil’s slavery or the slave trade. 

127. Freyre, Um Brasileiro em terras portuguesas. 

128. Buanga Fele (Mario Pinto de Andrade’s pseudonym, meaning “Hidden Gentle- 
man” in Kimbundu), “Qu’est-ce que ‘le luso-tropicalismo’?” A student of sociology at 
the Sorbonne, Pinto de Andrade was also an editor of the journal Presence Africaine. As 
such, in 1956 he organized the “Congres des Ecrivains et des Artistes Noirs,” which gath- 
ered many African and African Americans intellectuals at the Sorbonne, including Frantz 
Fanon and Marcelino dos Santos, one of the founders of the FRELIMO (1956); the Mart- 
iniquese Aime Cesaire and Edouard Glissant; the Haitians Jean Price-Mars, Rene De- 
pestre, and Jacques-Stephen Alexis; the American Richard Wright; and the Senegalese 
Leopold Senghor and Cheikh Anta Diop, among others. 

129. Bezerra de Menezes, 0 Brasil e 0 mundo Asio-africano, 336, 338. 

130. Rampinelli, As duas faces da moeda, 59-64. 

131. Davila, “Entre dois mundos.” 

132. Souza Dantas, Africa diftcil. 

133. De Andrade Melo, Recordatfes de um remouedor de mqfo no Itamaraty, 86. 

134. Selcher, “Brazilian Relations with Portuguese Africa in the Context of the Elu- 
sive ‘Luso-Brazilian Community’”; de Almeida, “Do alinhamento recalcitrante a colabo- 
ra^ao relutante.” 

135. Suarez, Desafios transatlantic, mercaderes, banqueros y el Estado en el Peru uirreinal 
1600-1/00, 211. 

136. Carneiro became royal cosmographer in 1631, under the Habsburg Crown, and 
again, in 1641, under the Braganza. Mariz de Carneiro, “Roteiro de Portugal pera o Brazil, 
Rio da Prata, Angola e S. Thome, segundo os pilotos antigos e modernos, agora a quinta 
vez impresso,” in Reqimento de pilotos e Roteiro da navega^a m e conquistas do Brasil, Angola, 
S. Thome, Cabo Verde, Maranhao, Ilhas, & \r\dias Occidentals, 15-19. 

137. Richard de Silva, “The Portuguese East India Company 1628-1633,” 181-182. 

138. Probably 100,000 African and Afro-Brazilian slaves were exported from Brazil to 
the Rio de la Plata in the period 1742-1812. Bauss, “Rio Grande do sul in the Portuguese 

139. Torres Ramirez, La Compania Gaditana de Negros, 111-118. 

140. De Wulf, “Annobon,” 174-194. 

141. TSTD (accessed November 2013). 

142. Torre Revello, “Un contrabandista del siglo XVII en el Rio de la Plata.” 

143. Those topics are still explored by today’s researchers. Caillet-Bois, “Roberto Levil- 
lier (1886-1969)”; Sabor Vila, “Jose Torre Revello (1893-1964)”; Socolow, “Recent His- 
toriography of the Rio de la Plata”; Moutoukias, “Power, Corruption, and Commerce.” 


the south Atlantic, past and present Luiz Felipe de Alencastro 

144. Tannenbaum, “La Trata de Negros en Rio de la Plata durante el siglo XVIII by 
Elena F.S. de Studer.” 

145. Sempat Assadourian, Trajico de esclauos en Cordoba. 

146. Alice P. Canabrava’s thesis was presented to the Universidade de Sao Paulo 
(where Braudel taught in 1935-1937) in 1942. Her book was published two years later: 
0 Comercio Portugues no Rio da Prata 1580-1640. Braudel, “Du Potosi a Buenos Aires.” 

147. Around 1850 Buenos Aires had a community of 15,000 Africans. Chamosa, “‘To 
Honor the Ashes ofTheir Forebears.’” 

148. Rodriguez Molas, “El Negro en el Rio de la Plata.” 

149. Chandler, “La Trata de Negros, by D. L. Molinari.” Chandler, an American diplo- 
mat and historian who studied at the Universidad San Marcos de Lima and the Univer- 
sidad Nacional de Buenos Aires, was a champion of Pan-Americanism; see Chandler, 
Inter-American Acquaintances. 

150. Weyland Usanna, “The Absence of an African Presence in Argentina and the 
Dominican Republic.” 

151. Cuvelier, Missionnaires Capucins des missions du Congo et de 1 ’ Angola du XVIIe et 
XVIIIe siecles. In a recent review on the history of Congo, a Congolese author regrets 
that the ancient Portuguese sources have been used only “as an appendix” of mission- 
ary history, given that they contain important data on Congolese social life between 
the sixteenth and the eighteenth centuries; Ndaywel E Nziem, “L’historiographie con- 

152. Raskin, “Heart of Darkness”; Atkinson, “Bound in ‘Blackwood’s.’” 

153. I got that impression from reading the obituary of Louis Jadin written by his 
brother, the distinguished microbiologist Jean-Baptiste Jadin, in the Academie Royale des 
Sciences d’Outre-Mer — Bulletin des Seances, A nnuaire 1973. 

154. See, for instance, Meeuwis, “The Origins of Belgian Colonial Language Policies 
in the Congo.” Although French was made a mandatory language in Congo’s school 
teaching in 1908, local languages were used in administrations and religious school, and 
again in governmental school between 1922 and 1948. Morabito, “Riva, Silvia.” 

155. Ngemba Ntima, La methode d' evangelisation des re'demptoristes beiges au B as-Congo 
(1899-1919), 294; Whitehead and Vansina, “An Interview with Jan Vansina.” 

156. Cuvelier, “Traditions Congolaises” and L’Ancien Royaume de Congo; Cuvelier and 
Jadin, L’Ancien Congo d’apres les archives romaines 1518-1640; and four works by Louis Jadin: 
“Les Flamands au Congo et en Angola au XVIIeme siecle”; “Rivalries luso-neerlandaises 
au Soyo, Congo, 1600-1675”; Rivalries luso-neerlandaises au Sohio, Congo, 1600-1675; an< ^ 
L’Ancien Congo et I’Angola 1639-1655. 

157. Thornton, “The Origins and Early History of the Kingdom of Kongo, c. 1350- 
1550” and “Modern Oral Tradition and the Historic Kingdom of Kongo.” 



158. Biographie Coloniale Beige, vol. 2. Several other authors also contributed to this 
collection. See (accessed October 2013). 

159. Ndaywel e Nziem, Obenga, and Salmon, Histoire generate du Congo , n-18; Denis 
et al., “Regards changeants dans une continuity d’interet”; Van Damme-Linseele, “In 
Memoriam: Fr. Francois Bontinck: 1920-2005.” 

160. The first complete French translation of the widely publicized edition by Pigafetta 
of the Portuguese merchant Duarte Lopez report on Congo was Bal, Description du royaume 
du Congo et des contre'es environnantes, par Filippo Pigafetta et Duarte Lopez (1591), published in 
1962. Bal was a renowed Walloon activist writer and a professor at the Universite Lova- 
nium at Leopoldville. His commented edition of Description du royaume du Congo , with 393 
notes covering sixty-five pages, was considered “magisterial” by Cornevin and drew at- 
tention back to Pigafetta’s work; see Cornevin, “Le Congo ex-belge.” Another important 
work also elaborated at the Universite Lovanium is Bontinck, La fondation de la mission des 
Capuchins au Royaume du Congo (1648), from 1966, translating and commenting on Fr. 
Giovanni da Roma’s Breue relatione (1648). 

161. Cornevin, “Chronique du Congo Leopoldville.” 

162. On mestizaje in the South Atlantic, see also de Alencastro, “Mulattos in Brazil 
and Angola.” 

163. Boxer, SalvadordeSa and the Struggle for Brazil and Angola, 1602-1686; Mauro, Le Por- 
tugal et I’Atlantique au XVIIe siede. Through the title of his book, Mauro, like Chaunu before 
him (Seville et I’Atlantique), underlined his emphasis on the broader historical space rather 
than anachronic territorial entities. Later, on the insistence of his Portuguese editors, he 
introduced “Brasil” in the title of the Portuguese translation, Portugal, Brasil e 0 Atlantico. 

164. In 1950, two years before Salvador de Sa, Boxer published the revised edition of 
his commanding book on the cultural exchanges between the Dutch and the Japanese, 
first published in 1936: Jan Compagnie in Japan, 1600-1850. “A beautiful study of the nippon- 
neerlandese transculturation” (1177), wrote Pierre Chaunu on this book; Chaunu, “Bresil 
et Atlantique au XVIIe siecle.” Despite all of the debates on world history, Boxer’s works 
still pay the price of their enlightened cosmopolitanism. Thus some researchers of Asian 
history ignore his contribution to the Atlantic history, and vice versa. In his essay on 
Boxer’s life and work, the Dutch historian Frank Lequin, a specialist of the Verenigde 
Oostindische Compagnie and modern Japan — and a Boxer disciple — does not mention 
Salvador de Sa, which, in the words of another Boxer disciple, Francis Dutra, “might argu- 
ably be claimed to be his best book.” Dutra, “Charles Boxer’s Salvador de Sa and the Struggle 
for Brazil and Angola Revisited”; Lequin, “In Memoriam Charles Ralph Boxer F.B.A., 8 March 
1904-27 April 2000.” 

165 . Birmingham, quoted by Cummins, in West and Cummins, A List of the Writings of 
Charles Ralph Boxer Published betiveen 1926 and 1984, p. XIV. 


the south Atlantic, past and present Luiz Felipe de Alencastro 

166. Emily Hahn wrote a noteworthy travel journal, Congo Solo (1933), and a novel, 
With Naked Foot (1934), sketching contemporary colonialist practices in West Central 
Africa. In his introduction to the 2011 edition of Congo Solo, Ken Cuthbertson, a biogra- 
pher and admirer of Emily Hahn, describes Charles Boxer’s adventurous life and prolific 
works in a short and peculiar way: “an eccentric English army officer turned professor of 
Portuguese colonial history.” 

167. Magalhaes Godinho, Documentos sobre a Expansao Portuguese!; Histo'ria Econo'mica e 
Social da Expansao Portuguesa; “Problemes d’economie atlantique”; Fontes Quatrocentistas 
para a Geograjia e Economia do Saara e Guine; A Ezoaomia dos Descobrimentos Henriquinos; and 
L’economie de I’empire Portugal aux XVe etXVIe siedes. See also Cardoso, “Vitorino Magalhaes 
Godinho and the Annales School.” 

168. Mauro, “De Madere a Mazagan.” Later, developing Braudel’s ideas, Mauro pro- 
posed a typology of networks of maritime trade and land forming “Mediterranean seas” 
in several parts of the world. But he does not consider the Bahia-Bight of Benin ex- 
changes, which he discussed at length as a jury member of Pierre Verger’s doctoral thesis 
in 1968. Mauro, “Un nom commun.” 

169. Mauro’s statistics on the slave trade to Brazil during 1570 and 1670 were con- 
sidered accurate by Curtin; see Curtin, The Atlantic Slaue Trade, 115-117. 

170. In his bibliographical guide, Trevor Burnard affirms: “Significantly, Charles 
Verlinden and Frederic Mauro wrote during the internationalist period of the Cold War, 
when ideas of Western civilization were large influences on scholarship these issues.” 
The assertion may apply to Verlinden but not to Mauro, whose book had quite different 
roots. Burnard, The Idea of Atlantic History, 10-n. 

171. Braudel, “Pour une histoire serielle.” 

172. Hamilton, War and Prices in Spain, 1651-1800. 

173. On different occasions, Frederic Mauro and Pierre Chaunu made the same remark. 
War and Price, alike other Hamilton’s works, had admiring reviews in the Annales. Febvre 
commented on Hamilton’s findings in the fifth issue of the journal. Febvre, “L’afflux des 
metaux d’Amerique etlesprix a Seville.” In 1932, Hamilton himself published an essay in 
the Annales. Pierre Vilar wrote an acute and reverential review ofWar and Price, establishing 
a parallel with his own research on Catalonia. Vilar, “Histoire des prix, histoire generale.” So 
Braudel makes a “mise au point” with a respectful but moderate commentary on War and 
Price, stressing that Spain’s decline should be analyzed within the global context of the Gen- 
eral Crisis. Braudel, “De l’histoire d’Espagne a l’histoire des prix,” 202-206. Other refer- 
ences on the prices and wages debate included Beveridge, Prices and Wages in England from the 
Twelfth to the Nineteenth Century, and, closer to Braudel’s disciples and the Annales School, 
Jean Meuvret. Such debates derived from the studies on the cyclical model of economic 
crises and the Great Depression held by the International Committee of History of Price. 



174. Mauro, “Article de E. J. Hobsbawm sur la crise du XVIIe siecle.” Mauro’s main 
critique of Hobsbawm’s essay relies on Hamilton’s analysis: the central role of monies 
and credit in the transformations of the 1600s. 

175. Le Portugal et PAtlantique was not translated in Brazil. Writing about the disregard 
of French historians on Adantic history, Cecile Vidal omits Mauro’s works. Vidal, “La 
nouvelle histoire adantique en France” and “Pour une histoire globale du monde atlan- 
tique ou des histoires connectees dans et au-dela du monde adantique?” 

176. Boxer, “Salvador Correia de sa e Benevides and the Reconquest of Angola in 

1 77. Chaunu, “Bresil et Adantique au XVIIe siecle.” Magalhaes Godinho’s Sorbonne 
Doctorat d’Etat, then unpublished, is titled “L’economie de 1 ’empire portugais aux XVIe 
et XVIIe siecles. L’or et le poivre. Route de Guinee et route du Cap,” 2 vols., as “these 
principale,” and Les finances de PEtat portugais des Indes orientales, du XVIe au debut du XVIIe 
siecle: Etude et documents. 

178. His data and analysis of the Spanish asientos contracts, as well the figures previ- 
ously estimated by Mauro, formed the basis of Curtin’s global calculations on the Adan- 
tic slave trade during the seventeenth century. Huguette and Chaunu, Seville et PAtlantique 
1504-1550, 6:41-42, 6:402-403. 

179. Corcino Medeiros dos Santos’s article on bilateral trade between Brazil and An- 
gola in the eighteenth century presented data on bilateral navigation that was misinter- 
preted by the author. See Medeiros dos Santos, “Relates de Angola com o Rio de Janeiro 
1736-1808,” table 1. 

180. See also Mauro, Des produits et des hommes, chaps. 2 and 3. 

181. Boxer, The Dutch in Brazil, 1624-1654. 

182. Boxer, The Golden Age of Brazil, 1695-1750. 

183. Boxer, Portuguese Society in the Tropics, 209-218. 

184. In 1959, the Reuue Fran^aise d’Histoire des Colonies, founded in 1913 by the French 
Ministry of Colonies, changed its name to Revue Frangaise d’Histoire d’Outre-Mer. Robert 
Delavignette, a former colonial governor, explained in an editorial the choice of the new 
title, arguing that in its new issues the Revue would evolve toward “a history of the accul- 
turation where would be measured the contributions of the different (countries) mem- 
bers of the (French) Community, in the light of their respective historical traditions.” 
Delavignette, “La Revue Franchise d’Histoire d’Outre-Mer.” 

185. The chair was created in 1905 under the aegis of the Union Coloniale Frangaise, 
a powerful colonialist lobby. Brunschwig, “Le parti colonial frangais”; Bancel, “Que faire 
des postcolonial studies?”; Moniot, “Une ego-histoire des etudes africaines.” See also 
Schaub, “La categorie ‘etudes coloniales’ est-elle indispensable?” and “The Case for a 
Broader Atlantic History.” Ironically, the generalizations around the field of postcolonial 


the south Atlantic, past and present Luiz Felipe de Alencastro 

studies have induced some colleagues at the Sorbonne to envision again a field study on 
“colonial history.” 

186. Curtin, “African Studies: A Personal Statement.” In a move influenced by ideo- 
logical issues, the Ford Foundation, then the most important funding agency in area 
studies, preferentially sponsored Boston University and Northwestern University. By 
contrast, Chicago’s Roosevelt University, which backed meetings against apartheid in 
South Africa, and Lincoln University (Pennsylvania), which was openly supportive of 
African nationalist movements, had much less sponsorship. Gershenhorn, “‘Notan Ac- 
ademic Affair’”; Martin, “The Rise of African Studies (USA) and the Transnational Study 
of Africa.” 

187. Brunschwig, “Un faux probleme.” See also Newbury, “Contradictions at the 
Heart of the Canon.” Jan Vansina had already published his innovative study on Rwanda 
based on oral history: revolution du royaume du Rwanda des origines a lg 60. Likewise, in the 
first issue of the Journal of African History he published his programmatic articles on the 
Bakuba, laying the methodological foundations of oral history research in African stud- 
ies. Vansina, “Recording the Oral History of the Bakuba — I. Methods” and “Recording 
the Oral History of the Bakuba — II. Results”; Vansina and Wright, Oral Tradition; Vansina, 
Kingdoms of the Savanna. 

188. Vansina, Kingdoms of the Savanna, 145-146. 

189. La vie quotidienne au royaume de Kongo du XVle au XVIIIe siecle. 

190. Balandier’s essay “La situation coloniale” (1951), which Copans considered a 
“founding text” on the study of colonized societies in Africa, and his book L’Ajrique am- 
bigue (1957) influenced two generations of Francophone African writers, including V. Y. 
Mudimbe. Two of Balandier’s most prominent disciples — Claude Meillassoux, consid- 
ered the father of economic anthropology in France, and Christine Messiant, the main 
French specialist on contemporary Angola — wrote important works on southern Africa. 
Balandier, “La situation colonial,” Sociologie des Brazzauilles noires , and L’Afrique ambigue. See 
also Gosselin, Les nouveaux enjeux de 1 ’anthropologie, autour de G. Balandier. Copans, “La ‘sit- 
uation coloniale’ de Georges Balandier”; Meillassoux, Les Derniers Blancs. 

191. Randles, L’ancien royaume du Congo des origines a la fn du XIXe siecle, 334-337, 

192. Birmingham, Trade and Conflict in Angola. Randies’s remark refers to the previous 
synthesis published by Birmingham, The Portuguese Conquest 0/ Angola of Angola; Randles, 
“David Birmingham, The Portuguese Conquest of Angola. 1 ' 

193. Vansina, Kingdoms of the Savanna. 

194. Vansina, “Trade and Conflict in Angola.” 

195. Vansina, “Anthropologists and the Third Dimension.” 

196. Birmingham, Trade and Conflict in Angola, 119. 



197. Vansina, Kingdoms of the Savanna, 13, 144, 146, 183. 

198. Birmingham, Trade and Empire in the Atlantic, 1400-1600. 

199. “History Facing the Present: An Interview with Jan Vansina.” 

200. Vellut, “L’Afrique aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siecles.” His review concerns volume 4 of 
the Cambridge History 0/ Africa (1500-1790). 

201. Copans, Un demi-siecle d’ajricanisme ajficain, 80-83. 

202. Vellut, “Jan Vansina on the Belgian Historiography of Africa.” 

203. See note 52. 

204. Games, “Atlantic History: Definitions, Challenges, and Opportunities.” 

205. Flux et reflux de la traite des negres entre le Golfe de Benin et Bahia de Todos os Santos, 
XVle-XIXe siecles (1968). The book is the printed version of his Doctorat de Troisieme 
Cycle presented in 1966 at the Sorbonne. The thesis was criticized by the jury, mainly by 
Braudel, for the long quotations of documents without analysis or comments. In fact, 
Verger received the degree assez bien (equivalent to cum Iaude), then the lowest citation for 
the French doctorate (personal testimony of Frederic Mauro, another member of the 
jury). Reviewers and today’s readers of Flux et rejlux unknowingly agree with Braudel’s 

206. “Pierre Verger,” Reuue Noire, 
_content&view=article&id=356i&catid=i6&Itemid=6 (accessed September 2013). 

207. Curtin, “Flux et reflux,” 347-348; Boxer, “Flux et reflux,” 806-807. 

208. Schwartz, Sugar Plantations in the Formation of Brazilian Society; de Queiros Mat- 
toso, Bahia, se'culo XIX. 

209. Deschamps, Histoire generale de I’Afrique noire, de Madagascar, et des archipels, 1:221, 

210. Butel, Histoire de I’Atlantique; Butel, The Atlantic (British translation of Histoire de 
iAtlantique), 100-104, 139-142. 

211. Braudel reviewed C. Prado Junior’s Formagao do Brasil Contemporaneo (1942) and 
Histo'ria Economica do Brasil (1945); Braudel, “Deux livres de Caio Prado.” 

212. Braudel, Civilisation matenelle, e'conomie et capitalisme, XVle-XVllle siecles, 3:536— 
552 . 

213. Walvin, “Why Did the British Abolish the Slave Trade?” 

214. Of the 10,538,227 enslaved individuals who arrived in the Americas from the 
beginning of the sixteenth century, 2,633,403 disembarked between 1808 and 1866, 
mostly in Brazil (1,842,573), Cuba (616,908), and the French Caribbean (154,133). TSTD 
(accessed November 2013). 

215. Boxer, “Flux et reflux.” On the controversy about Boxer’s views on race relations 
in the Portuguese empire see the thoughtful analysis by Curto, “The Debate on Race Re- 
lations in the Portuguese Empire and Charles R. Boxer’s Position.” See also Cummins 


the south Atlantic, past and present Luiz Felipe de Alencastro 

and De Sousa Rebelo, “The Controversy over Charles Boxer’s Race Relations in the Por- 
tuguese Colonial Empire 1415-1825.” 

216. Birmingham, “Africa and Brazil.” 

217. Canizares-Esguerra and Breen, “Hybrid Atlantics,” 597. 


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Past and 


The Dutch and the Consolidation 
of the Seventeenth-Century South 
Atlantic Complex, c. 1630-1654 

abstract: This article looks at the seventeenth-century South Atlantic and explores 
the role played by the Dutch private merchants based in Brazil and by the Dutch 
West India Company for the consolidation of the South Atlantic. To do so, it focuses 
on the political, military, and commercial exchanges between the northeastern Bra- 
zilian captaincies and Angola during theyears 1630 and 1654. 

keywords: Dutch — Commerce — South Atlantic 

In recent years, scholarship on the Atlantic economy has clearly shown that 
throughout the early modern period the South Atlantic emerged as an economic, 
social, political, and cultural complex with a life of its own, in most cases oper- 
ating independently from colonial powers based in Europe. 1 Historiography 
and information recently gathered in the Transatlantic Slave Trade Database 
(tstd) have also demonstrated that the formation of the South Atlantic com- 
plex dates back to the 1570s, and its rise in the overall Atlantic economy starts to 
be most visible after the mid-seventeenth century. 2 

Most studies on this southern complex, however, have focused mainly on the 
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the zenith of South Atlantic exchanges. 3 
With the exception of works by Alencastro and Puntoni, among others, little is 
known about the South Atlantic complex in the period between the 1570s and 
1650s and about the impact of the arrival of northern European merchants, par- 
ticularly those from the Dutch Republic (hereafter the Republic), in the South 
Atlantic and the role they might have played (or not) in the formation and con- 
solidation of the complex. 4 

Often the arrival of Dutch merchants and especially the Dutch West India 
Company (wic) in the South Atlantic is portrayed as a moment of intense con- 
flict, leading to major losses in commerce and other types of exchanges within 



the South Atlantic and between the former and Europe. 5 Recent scholarship is 
shedding new light on the different types of interactions established between 
Dutch and Portuguese in the South Atlantic, and on the overall Atlantic econ- 
omy, helping scholars to draw a more nuanced pictures of Luso-Dutch ex- 
changes, where conflict and cooperation went hand in hand. Beyond Ebert’s 
studies focusing on Dutch trade with Brazil in the late sixteenth and early seven- 
teenth centuries, little is known about the participation of northern European 
merchants in the South Atlantic trade, especially in the bilateral commerce es- 
tablished between West Central Africa, Brazil, and South America. 6 

This article aims to partially fill this void in the literature by looking at the 
seventeenth-century South Atlantic and exploring the role played by the Dutch 
private merchants based in Brazil and the Republic and by the Dutch wic for 
the consolidation of the South Atlantic as we came to know it in the following 
centuries. Here we will examine some of the political, military, and commercial 
exchanges between the northeastern Brazilian captaincies and Angola during 
the years 1630 and 1654. 

To address some of these issues, we will start with a brief overview of the 
legal framework regulating Dutch participation in the South Atlantic trade. We 
will then look at early Dutch participation in the South Atlantic through the lens 
of Dutch private merchants’ activities in the Brazilian and Angolan trades. A 
brief discussion of the political and commercial relations established between 
Dutch Brazil and Angola during the wic’s rule over parts of these territories 
will follow. Here we will pay special attention to political negotiations between 
the government of the wic in Brazil, its headquarters in Luanda, and the Re- 
public. Finally, we will examine the commercial circuits and exchanges linking 
these two territories. Our main goals are to highlight the role these relations 
played in the consolidation of the South Atlantic complex. 

The evidence presented here has been gathered over the past seven years via 
thorough research in Dutch archives. For the study of Dutch private merchants’ 
engagement in the South Atlantic we have used the collection of notarial con- 
tracts of the Amsterdam city archive. 7 The collection of the first Dutch wic 8 has 
also been paramount for this study. Together with travel accounts and the infor- 
mation available in the tstd, these source materials are key to reconstructing 
Dutch participation in the South Atlantic. Let us start by looking into the Dutch 
legal framework for the Atlantic trade. 


the south Atlantic, past and present Filipa Ribeiro da Silva 

Private Trade and Legal Frameworks for Atlantic Commerce 

Until 1621 trade between the Republic, South America, and West Central Africa, 
including Brazil and Angola, was controlled by private businessmen. In the 
main Dutch port cities, there were a handful of private “companies” and several 
independent businessmen involved in these commercial branches. 9 These 
firms had no formal commercial organization comparable to the wic, as they 
only hired merchants and accountants aboard ships, onshore or aboard leggers 
(floating trading posts) to conduct trade in Brazil and on the western coast of 
Africa. 10 The chartering of the wi c by the States General in 1621 brought an end 
to this initial period of free trade, as the company was granted a monopoly over 
all Atlantic trade. 11 

From its outset, the wic was met with great opposition from the merchants 
of Amsterdam and the northern port cities of the Republic, which had import- 
ant investments in the North Atlantic fisheries, Brazilian sugar and dyewood, 
the salt trade with South America, and the African gold, ivory, and slave trades. 
Some commercial branches were therefore detached from the wic’s monopoly 
soon after its establishment. 

The military character of the wic caused the disruption of many activities 
in these areas. For several years after the takeover of the captaincies in north- 
eastern Brazil, sugar production decreased, causing major losses for the sugar 
refiners in the Republic. 12 In the years immediately after the occupation of Lu- 
anda, company officials also failed to secure a regular supply of slave labor to 
the city, and consequently to Dutch Brazil. 13 

During the same period, the burden of paying for the huge military cam- 
paigns against the Portuguese possessions began to be felt. 14 The company 
lacked adequate cash flow to operate the businesses in Brazil, western Africa, 
the Caribbean, and North America, and struggled to ensure the transport of 
commodities, personnel, and weaponry between her posts and settlements. To 
mitigate its losses, the wic granted shareholders permission to participate in 
the trade with Brazil and the Caribbean in 1638. In 1647, the company also 
agreed to open the slave trade from Angola to Brazil, the Caribbean, and the 
Spanish Americas to private businessmen in the Republic. 15 Flowever, these 
measures did not prevent the company from losing control over Brazil and An- 
gola and her share in the South Atlantic trade after the early 1650s, as evidence 
from the tstd clearly shows. 



Slave voyages landing in Brazil per ship flag, 1570-1700 
Source: 19-07-2012. 

Dutch Participation in the South Atlantic: 

From Private Trade to Company Monopoly 

Dutch Private Trade in the South Atlantic 

By the late sixteenth century, the Republic was home to two main groups of 
merchants with economic interest in the Brazilian and Angolan trades: a group 
of Christian merchants of Dutch, Flemish, and German origin 16 and the Portu- 
guese Sephardim established in Amsterdam and other Dutch cities. 17 The first 
group started its economic activities in the South Atlantic in the late 1580s, in- 
vesting mainly in the Brazilian sugar and dyewood trades and the African com- 
merce in gold, ivory, and leather. In these early times, Dutch participation in 
the slave trade was minimal, as studies by Postma, Eltis, and Vos et al. 18 have 
demonstrated. Sephardim were the businessmen engaged in these early “Dutch” 
slave trade, as many of them were already operating circuits connecting Iberia 
and the Netherlands to Angola and Brazil prior to their arrival in the Republic, 
while fleeing from Antwerp after Dutch blockage and from Iberia due to the 
persecution of the Inquisition courts. 

Many of these businessmen did in fact combine in their portfolio invest- 
ments in both regions of the South Atlantic. Christian merchants of Dutch, 
Flemish, and German origins appear engage simultaneously in the trade with 

the south Atlantic, past and present Fiiipa Ribeiro da Silva 

West Central Africa and Brazil. As for the Portuguese Sephardic Jews, they were 
engaged not only in the Brazilian but also in the Spanish American trade, guar- 
anteeing the supply of an African slave labor force to these colonies and the 
transportation of the export commodities such as sugar, dyewood, tobacco, sil- 
ver, gold, and precious stones to Europe. 19 

Although we could not find direct evidence that these businessmen did carry 
out bilateral trade between Angola and Brazil in separate circuits from those 
operated from the Republic and other European ports, as we will explain further 
in this article, there was already a notion among private businessmen that these 
two South Atlantic markets were complementary. This notion among Dutch 
merchants that Angolan and Brazilian trading markets were complementary 
would become very clear after the establishment of the wic in 1621, particularly 
in the years immediately before the takeover of the Brazilian northeastern cap- 
taincies in 1630. The commercial routes, practices, and logistics put in motion 
by the Portuguese and Brazilian merchants based in the colony since the 1570s 
to operate in the South Atlantic certainly helped nurturing this growing aware- 
ness among wic officials of the economic complementarity between the Bra- 
zilian and the Angolan markets. 

WIC Politics in the South Atlantic 

When the wic laid clear plans to occupy extensive masses of land, such as Brazil, 
and Angola, the board of directors 20 — also known as the Gentlemen Nineteen — 
did consider for the first time the idea of establishing a central government for 
the Dutch Atlantic, with its headquarters in the South Atlantic. In 1629-1630, 
when the company launched the second attack on Brazil, more precisely on the 
captaincy of Pernambuco, the board of directors, with the permission of the 
States General and Count Maurits of Nassau, started to prepare a document de- 
fining a new central government for the Dutch Atlantic settlements, including 
regulations concerning commercial, military, judicial, administrative, and fiscal 
organization — the so-called Order of Government of 1629. 

The company’s main goal was to give an administrative, military, judicial, 
commercial, and fiscal unity to the government of the Atlantic colonies by es- 
tablishing a head of government with supervising power over all colonies and 
settlements of the Dutch Atlantic. 21 Brazil was to be the headquarters of this 
central government. For the South Atlantic this entailed that any colonies the 
wic set up in the region were to come under the jurisdiction of the central gov- 


ernment. So, according to the Order of Government of 1629, all posts and set- 
tlements taken over from the Portuguese during the 1630s and 1640s, namely 
Elmina, Axim, Shama, and the settlements of Sao Tome and Angola, were at least 
in theory to be under the jurisdiction of the central government of Brazil. The 
reality would be quite different. 

The central government of the colony and the Count Maurits of Nassau as 
governor-general of Dutch Brazil were in fact the political and administrative 
bodies of the wic that devised the main plan to take over Angola and Sao Tome 
from the Portuguese, and to maintain the economic links between the two 
shores of the South Atlantic. The main reason used by Count Maurits and the 
central government to get the approval for the expedition by the board of direc- 
tors and the States General was the high demand for slave labor in Dutch Brazil. 
However, the preparation and sponsoring of this huge naval and military oper- 
ation by Count Maurits and the central government was not, in our view, in- 
dependent from the underlying jurisdiction that the Order of Government of 
1629 had granted Dutch Brazil over the Atlantic. This decision was taken neither 
lightly nor without consistent knowledge of the links between these territories 
in the South Atlantic. 22 The actions of Count Maurits of Nassau and the central 
government of Brazil that followed the takeover of Luanda and Sao Tome, lead- 
ing to disputes between these two entities and the board of directors and the 
States General in the Republic, are quite telling. 

Immediately after the occupation of Angola and Sao Tome, Count Maurits 
of Nassau and the central government of Brazil pleaded with the States General 
to bring these territories under the jurisdiction of Brazil, given the high demand 
for slave labor in the colony and the direct supply link between Angola and 
Brazil, established since 1630. The States General wrote them a report on this 
issue and submitted it to the company’s board of directors for approval. To study 
the matter, the Gentlemen Nineteen organized a commission. In a report dated 
6 February 1642, the commission voted in favor of the States General’s pro- 
posal. According to this document, Angola should be under the direct adminis- 
tration of the Gentlemen Nineteen. The colony should be directly supplied from 
the Republic with provisions and exchange goods. Therefore, it should be sep- 
arate from Brazil, as it was during the rule of the Portuguese. In the commis- 
sion’s point of view, it did not make sense to supply Angola and Sao Tome via 
Brazil, since this colony was also supplied by the Republic. Besides, the voyages 
between Brazil and Luanda were, according to them, longer than the route be- 

the south Atlantic, past and present Fiiipa Ribeiro da Siiva 

tween the Republic and Angola. In addition, Brazil already had financial prob- 
lems, and administering another colony would be too costly for Dutch Brazil. 23 

The commission argued that Angola and Sao Tome should be supplied di- 
rectly from the Republic and that all instructions should be sent by the Gentle- 
men Nineteen. On the one hand, they pointed out, the need for slave labor in 
Brazil was not a solid reason to give the jurisdiction over Angola and Sao Tome 
to the government in Dutch Brazil, as other colonies that the wic might occupy 
in the future would also need to import enslaved Africans. Although the slave 
trade was the principal commerce in Angola, there were also other commercial 
branches in this area that the company wanted to develop. On the other hand, 
they said, Brazil could not supply Angola and Sao Tome without the supplies 
sent from the Republic, and time had shown that this redistribution had not 
functioned properly, since wic employees in Angola faced a lack of foodstuffs, 
ammunitions, and provisions, despite the higher quantities of provisions sent 
from the Republic to Brazil. In addition, the transport of the troops from the 
Republic or from Brazil to Angola resulted in the same problem. The troops 
sent to Brazil were kept within the territory. As a consequence, Angola and Sao 
Tome could not afford a rotation of soldiers, and the colony failed to redistrib- 
ute these military to the West Central African settlements. These arguments were 
presented to the States General on 4 March 1642. 24 

The States General accepted the arguments of the commission and, in oppo- 
sition to Count Maurits of Nassau and the central government of Brazil, sepa- 
rated the governments of Sao Tome and Angola from Brazil, thus establishing 
a new administrative division for the wic posts in western Africa. According 
to the new organization, the western coast of Africa was to be divided in two 
districts with separate governments. The northern district included the coastal 
areas between the Cape of Three Points and the Cape Lopo Gonsalves (present- 
day Cape Lopez), while the southern district encompassed the coastal regions 
from Cape Lopez to the Cape of Good Hope, as well as the islands in the Gulf 
of Guinea. The government of the former district was based at Elmina and the 
latter at Luanda. Each government had jurisdiction over administrative, judicial, 
commercial, and religious affairs. 25 To the two districts, the board of directors 
added a third one: Sao Tome, with its own government. The island was supposed 
to be a bridge between the two other districts. 26 This third district did not last 
long: by 1645 the islands of Sao Tome were incorporated into the northern dis- 
trict but kept their own government. 27 


This new administrative division also entailed that supplies, including food- 
stuff, medicine, clothes, ammunitions, weapons, and ship equipage materials, 
were to be provided direcdy by the Republic to these governments. Supply of ex- 
change goods for trade and the rotation of naval, military, and civilian staff was 
to be ensured by various Company Chambers, according to their share in the 
company capital. In practice, things were not so linear. This division of jurisdic- 
tion and the interference of the States General in the administrative matters of the 
wic due to their political and diplomatic implications for the Republic made 
for multiple conflicts that usually ended in a loss for the governments of the 
posts and settlements in West Central Africa and other areas of the Atlantic. On 
the one hand, the irregular supply of exchange goods to the forts in West Central 
Africa by the aforementioned institutions caused commercial losses. On the other 
hand, the insufficient supply of foodstuffs and ammunitions, as well as the 
deficient rotation of the troops controlled by the institutions mentioned earlier, 
ended in territorial losses not only in West Central Africa, but also in Brazil. 28 

The commands of Angola and Sao Tome probably offer the best example of 
the problem. Initially, the supplies to the areas were to be provided by the cen- 
tral government in Brazil. In 1642, the States General recognized that this was 
an enormous burden on the finances of the colony and decided that provisions 
should be sent directly from the Republic by the board of directors. However, 
the Gentlemen Nineteen did not discharge the central government in Brazil 
from the duty of providing help and assistance to Angola and Sao Tome. 29 And, 
more often than not, the Company Chambers in the Republic also failed to pro- 
vide for these settlements. 

The plea for the jurisdiction over Angola and Sao Tome submitted by Count 
Maurits and the central government in Brazil and the arguments used tell us 
much about how the governor-general and central government viewed the South 
Atlantic under the wic rule. For them, the South Atlantic had its own economic 
logic and unit that, once preserved, would benefit the company’s colonies in the 
region. The States General and the company’s board of directors did not share 
this opinion. 

What it seems to have been here at stake is a conflict between different po- 
litical and economic interests: those based in Dutch Brazil and Dutch Angola, 
which were represented by officials in these two wic settlements, and those 
based in the Republic, which were represented by the Gentlemen Nineteen in 
the Republic. While the Gentlemen Nineteen would be protecting the interest of 

the south Atlantic, past and present Filipa Ribeiro da Silva 

the sugar merchants and refiners in Amsterdam (at least in theory, although in 
practice and in the long term, the board’s policies would injure their interests), 
the central government of Brazil and Count Maurits stood for the wic’s inter- 
ests in the colony, namely the activities of settlers and merchants who had made 
alliances with the Dutch, and the new settlers and merchants who started pro- 
ducing and trading with and in the colony under the auspices of the company. 

By following commercial routes and practices already in place, Maurits was 
indirectly encouraging a certain economic autonomy for the colony of the wic, 
which would help to improve the always precarious financial and economic sit- 
uation there. Although the board of directors did advocate in favor of making 
the colonies self-sufficient, it feared that the colony would become too autono- 
mous and eventually too powerful. 

The question of power — or, to be more precise, the personal power that Count 
Maurits had acquired in Europe prior to his term in Brazil, and his increasing 
authority and leverage among the naval and military officials serving in Brazil, 
Angola, and Sao Tome — was, in our view, another factor that led the company to 
dismiss the plea for the jurisdiction over Angola and Sao Tome made by Count 
Maurits and the central government. 

The disputes and arguments exchanged between the central government 
of Brazil, the board of directors, and the States General are also very telling in 
terms of the different understanding of a same reality by officials serving in the 
colonies and those serving in Europe, and the knowledge of the real situation by 
these two groups ofwic staff. 

Those serving in the wic colonies seemed to be far more aware of the role 
played by the commercial links between the two settlements in the South Atlan- 
tic, not only under the company’s auspices, but also earlier, when both territo- 
ries were still under control of the Portuguese and private merchants operated 
in these markets as free traders. Evidence gathered in the Notarial Archives of 
Amsterdam, the collection of the wic, and the tstd not only clearly shows 
continuity in the Angola-Brazilian commercial links under Dutch rule and but 
also suggests an increase in these exchanges during the company’s rule over 
Brazil and Angola, as we will explain in more detail in the following section. 

Dutch Commercial Routes in the South Atlantic 

During the early period of Dutch activities in the South Atlantic, businessmen 
appear to have used three main types of long-distance circuits: direct routes 


linking the Republic to the New World, mainly Brazil; triangular routes linking 
the Republic to the Americas calling at West Central Africa, mainly Cape Lopez, 
Loango, Kongo, and Angola; and direct routes linking the Republic to the Gulf 
of Guinea and nearby coast, and to the coastal regions of Cape Lopez, Loango, 
Kongo, and Angola. Most of these circuits included port-to-port navigation to 
guarantee the exchange of commodities — a common practice among “Dutch” 
traders in the Atlantic. 

So, unlike their counterparts based in Portugal, Brazil, and Angola, who by 
the late sixteenth century were already operating bilateral circuits between An- 
gola and Brazil, and between the latter and other ports along the West Central 
African coast, completely separate from the European circuits, businessmen 
from the Republic were using bilateral routes between Europe and both mar- 
gins of the South Atlantic or the so-called triangular circuits, linking Europe to 
West Central Africa and the Americas. 

After the wic gained control of Brazil, new long-distance routes were estab- 
lished. The Gentlemen Nineteen advocated that trade with Loango and Kongo 
should be done via Brazil. This situation promoted two main routes: a circuit 
connecting the Republic with Brazil and a route linking Dutch Brazil to the 
“Angolan Coast.” In the former circuit provisions, ammunitions, personnel, 
and exchange goods were sent from the Republic to Brazil, and sugar, dyewood, 
tobacco, and company employees and a few passengers journeyed back home. 
The latter route connecting the ports of Pernambuco to western Africa had sev- 
eral functions: (i) supplying the wic employees at Loango and Kongo with ex- 
change goods, foodstuffs, and weapons; (2) transporting the enslaved Africans 
needed for the sugar planters in Brazil; (3) shipping ivory and dyewood to be 
re-exported to Europe via Brazil; and (4) ensuring the communication between 
the local governments of the wic in the different posts and settlements. Be- 
sides the aforementioned routes, several other circuits linked New Holland 
(present-day northeastern Brazil) to the company’s settlements in western Af- 
rica. In the 1630s, the main routes were (1) Pernambuco to Senegambia (Goree) 
to Pernambuco, and (2) Pernambuco to Gold Coast (Mouri, later on Elmina) to 
Pernambuco. There was also an important route connecting Pernambuco to 
Cape Lopez and back to Pernambuco. Cape Lopez was usually the location on 
the western coast of Africa where the wic vessels operating in the coastal trade 
in the Bight of Biafra and on the Slave Coast awaited the Brazilian fleets with 
enslaved Africans to be exported to the colony. 

the south Atlantic, past and present Fiiipa Ribeiro da Siiva 

Principal ports of slave purchase in West Central Africa, 1571-1700 
(for slave voyages landing in Brazil) 

Source: 19-07-2012. 

Between 1641 and 1648, the company also promoted direct routes linking 
the Republic to Angola and Sao Tome. The most important circuits linked the 
Republic to Luanda and the port of Sao Tome. These routes had two main func- 
tions: to supply provisions, ammunition, and foodstuffs to the military and ci- 
vilian staff of the company; and to ship the African products purchased at these 
coastal areas to the Republic, namely Sao Tome sugar and Angolan ivory and 
red dyewood. However, given the fact that the main “product” available — slave 
labor — was for the Brazil consumption market, the routes to Europe never be- 
came intense. In fact, the return voyages to Europe were often done via Brazil, 
where the enslaved workers would be unloaded and the cargoes completed with 
Brazilian sugar, dyewood, and tobacco. 

During the wic rule over Angola and Sao Tome (1641-1648), Luanda became 
the main supplier of enslaved Africans to meet the needs of the Portuguese- 
Brazilian, Jewish, Dutch, and Flemish sugar-planters in Brazil. In the 1640s, 
however, the most important route linked Pernambuco to Luanda, as data from 
theTSTD clearly shows. 

To sum up, from 1630 onward, Dutch Brazil was used as an entrepot of the 
company for the trade with West Central Africa, especially in the areas south of 


Cape Lopez, such as Loango, Kongo, and Angola. In this way, the supply of 
European exchange products, provisions and ammunition, and African goods 
purchased in these regions was guaranteed to the consumption markets in Eu- 
rope and the Americas via Brazil. Military and civilian wic personnel serving in 
West Central Africa were also transported via Brazil. Hence, the company main- 
tained separate bilateral circuits to connect its different settlements in the South 

The loss of Brazil brought to an end the circuits linking that colony to West 
Central Africa operated by ships sailing under Dutch contract. The circuits link- 
ing Brazil to Angola and the Gulf of Guinea were reactivated in the 1650s by 
Portuguese-Brazilian traders. These traders took alcoholic beverages, tobacco, 
and some gold to purchase enslaved Africans at the trading posts of the differ- 
ent European powers installed on the western coast of Africa. These circuits 
would become of special importance during the second wic (1674-1791). 30 

Private businessmen based in the Republic with interests in the South Atlan- 
tic started to operate new circuits linking Loango, Mpinda, and Angola with 
Curasao (the new wic entrepot for the trans-Atlantic trade), Suriname, and 
sometimes North America. The period of the Dutch South Atlantic was over. 
The new routes were based on the classical triangular scheme and guaranteed 
essential exchanges between the South and the North Atlantic. 


The bilateral circuits between Dutch Brazil and West Central Africa, more pre- 
cisely Loango and Angola, played an important role in consolidating various 
commercial practices and social exchanges that were already taking place be- 
tween these two territories while they were under the role of the Portuguese, as 
information gathered in the tstd suggests. 

By drawing on the preexisting commercial links between Brazil and Angola, 
the presence and rule of the wic over these two territories not only stimulated 
circuits between the northeastern captaincies, Loango and Angola, and strength- 
ened the links between these regions, but also forced the Portuguese, Luso- 
Brazilians, and Luso-Angolan merchants pushed to the southern captaincies of 
Brazil, the Kwanza estuary, and the Benguela region, in Angola, to make more 
intensive use of bilateral circuits that started to emerge in the 1570s. The wic’s 
naval power and its regular attacks on Portuguese ships sailing between the 
South and the North Atlantic might also have been an important reason to 

the south Atlantic, past and present Fiiipa Ribeiro da Silva 

Region where voyages began, 1571-1700 
Source: 19-07-2012. 

strengthen already existing and new bilateral circuits between Brazil and West 
Central Africa. 

In fact, after the Dutch conquest of Pernambuco, the Luso-Brazilian planters 
were forced to grow the crops farther south in Bahia and the surroundings of 
Rio de Janeiro . 31 In addition, due to the Dutch takeover of Angola and Sao Tome, 
they were also forced to find new supply markets in order to meet the labor 
demand of the sugar planters in Brazil. The development of local production 
in Brazil provided the traders with goods, such as spirits, tobacco, and (later) 
gold, which could be exchanged for African products . 32 Besides, the merchants’ 
knowledge concerning the demands of the African consumption markets played 
an important role in the establishment of these new trading routes. The most 
important ports of departure for these routes were Bahia and Rio de Janeiro. 
Some authors, such as David Eltis, argue that there were several attempts to 
transport enslaved Africans from Mozambique to Brazil, and there are indeed 
some references to a few voyages . 33 However, the time requirements and other 
logistical aspects of these voyages made them unprofitable. After the recapture 
of the northeastern Brazilian captaincies and Angola, the direct routes linking 
Brazil to West Central Africa, particularly to Angola, would become a key fea- 
ture of the Luso-Brazilian South Atlantic, also known as the “Angola-Brazil 


complex.” 34 From the 1670s and 1680s onward, these routes played a key role in 
supplying enslaved Africans to meet the high demand of manpower in the Bra- 
zilian labor market. 


1. Eltis, The Rise of Slavery in the Americas, 307; Alencastro, 0 trato dos uiuentes, 62, and 
“The Economic Network of Portugal’s Atlantic World,” 118-119. 

2. Domingues da Silva, “The Atlantic Slave Trade to Maranhao, 1680-1846”; Do- 
mingues da Silva and Eltis, “The Slave Trade to Pernambuco, 1561-1851”; Ribeiro, “The 
Transatlantic Slave Trade to Bahia, 1582-1851.” See also Mendes, “The Foundations of 
the System.” 

3. See, for instance, Candido, “Trade, Slavery and Migration in the Interior of Ben- 
guela”; “Transatlantic Links”; “Merchants and the Business of the Slave Trade in Ben- 
guela, c. 1750-1850”; and “Benguela et 1 ’espace atlantique sud au dix-huitieme siecle.” 
Ferreira, “The Atlantic Networks of the Benguela Slave Trade (1730-1800)”; Lopes, ‘Ne- 
gocio da Costa da Mina e Comercio Atlantico,” 176; Verger, Fluxo e Rejluxo do Trafico de Es- 
cravos entre os Golfo de Benin e a Bahia deTodos os Santos; Florentino, Em costas negras; Ribeiro, 
“O comercio das almas e a obten^ao de prestigio social”; Flory, “Bahian Society in the 
Mid-colonial Period”; Donovan, “Commercial Enterprise and Luso-Brazilian Society 
during the Gold Rush.” 

4. Alencastro, 0 trato dos uiuentes; Puntoni, A misera sorte and Guerras do Brazil, 1504-1654. 

5. See, among other works, Boxer, Saluador de Sa and the Struggle jbr Brazil and Angola, 
1602-1682; Emmer, “The First Global War” and “The Struggle over Sugar”; Mello, Olinda 
restaurada and 0 negocio do Brasil (Dutch ed.: De Braziliaanse ajfaire]. 

6. Ebert, “Dutch Trade with Brazil before the Dutch West India Company, 1587- 
1621” and Between Empires. 

7. Stadsarchief Amsterdam, formerly Gemeente Archiefvan Amsterdam, Notariele 

8. Nationaal Archief, Oude West-Indische Compagnie (hereafter cited as NA, OWIC). 

9. Unger, “Nieuwe gegevens betreffend het begin der vaart op Guinea, 1561-1601”; 
Enthoven, “Early Dutch Expansion.” 

10. “Andreas Josua Ulsheimer’s Voyage of 1603-4,” in Jones, German Sources, 21-29; 
“Samuel Brun’s Voyages of 1611-1620,” in Jones, German Sources, 45-96; La Fleur, Pieter 
van den Broecke’s Journal ofVoyages to Cape Verde, Guinea and Angola (1605-1612), 28, 47, 83-103. 
See also Ribeiro da Silva, “Dutch Vessels in African Waters.” 

11. Emmer, “The West India Company, 1621-1791”; Heijer, De geschiedenis van de WIC, 
chaps. 1-3. See also Boogaartand Emmer, “The Dutch Participation in the Atlantic Slave 
Trade, 1596-1650.” 


the south Atlantic, past and present Filipa Ribeiro da Silva 

12. Ebert, “Dutch Trade with Brazil,” 49-76, and Between Empires, chaps. 3,5,6. 

13. Ratelband, Nederlanders in West-Ajfika (1600-1650) [Portuguese trans.: Os Holande- 
ses no Brasil e na Costa Africana]. 

14. Jong, “Staatvan oorloy.” 

15. Emmer, “The West India Company,” 79-81; Goslinga, The Dutch in the Caribbean 
and on the Wild Coast, 1580-1680, no; Dillen, Van rijkdom en recjenten, 169. 

16. On the mercantile groups in the Republic, see, for example, Antunes, Globalisa- 
tion in the Early Modern Period; Gelderbloom, Zuid-Nederlandse kooplieden en de opkomst uan de 
Amsterdamse stapelmarkt (1578-1630); Lesger and Noordegraaf, Entrepreneurs and Entrepre- 
neurship in Early Modern Times. 

1 7. On the Portuguese Sephardim in the Republic, Western Europe, and the Atlantic 
in general, see Israel, European Jewry in the Aye of Mercantilism, 1550-1750, and Diasporas 
within the Diaspora; Kaplan, An Alternative to Modernity; Swetschinski, Reluctant Cosmopolitans. 

18. Postma, The Dutch in the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1600-1815, chap. 1, and “A Reassess- 
ment of the Dutch Atlantic Slave Trade”; Vos, Eltis, and Richardson, “The Dutch in the 
Atlantic World.” 

19. Gelderbloom, Zuid-Nederlandse kooplieden, 180-181, 224, 231, 238. For further de- 
tails on the activities carried out by these merchants on both shores of the South Atlantic, 
see Ribeiro da Silva, Dutch and Portuguese in Western Africa, chap. 7. 

20. The direction of the company was given to an assembly — the board of directors — 
formed by nineteen directors — the Gentlemen Nineteen — from the different chambers. 
Once again, the number of directors per chamber depended on the capital and the polit- 
ical and economic power of the provinces and cities. Amsterdam had eight directors on 
the board, and Zealand had four, while the other three chambers had two each. A mem- 
ber of the States General also had a chair in this assembly. The board was chaired by the 
chamber of either Amsterdam or Zealand. Amsterdam held the presidency for six con- 
secutive years and Zealand for two. The Gentlemen Nineteen gathered in assembly two 
or three times a year to decide on the company’s administrative policies for the coming 
months. They were also in charge of the WIC’s finances and the distribution of dividends 
among shareholders. The board also had the authority to form commissions to study 
certain matters. The members of such commissions were chosen among the directors, 
and once again their number was proportional to the capital and the power of each 
chamber. The chambers, on the other hand, were responsible for putting these policies 
into practice. Heijer, “Directores, Stadhouderes e conselhos de administra^ao,” and 
Goud, ivoor en slaven: Scheepvaart en handel van de Tweede Westindische Compagnie op Afrika, 

21. Each settlement or group of settlements would have its local government, com- 
prising a Council of Government and Justice or two separate councils. These councils 



should include the high civilian and military officials of the company. Each settlement 
would also have a governor, who was to be the head official of both councils. These gov- 
ernors and local governments would also have full powers, including permission to solve 
economic and financial problems in the areas under their jurisdiction. However, they 
were subordinated to the central government and the company’s board of directors. The 
governors would have access to the meetings of the local governments as advisers. In 
fact, they were always supposed to be present whenever the local governments discussed 
issues related to war, construction of defensive structures, and the organization of mili- 
tary expeditions. The council was to be independent from the general-director, who was 
to act like the leader of the government. The council was also obliged to report on the 
administrative situation in the settlement to the board of directors. Schiltkamp, “Legis- 
lation, Jurisprudence, and Law in the Dutch West Indian Colonies,” 320-321. 

22. NA, OWIC, 8: 18 December 1640. For the French translation of this document, 
see “Les XIX au gouverneur et au conseil de Recife,” in Jadin, L’Ancien Congo et I’Angola 
1639-1655 d’apres les archives romaines, portugaises, meerlandaises et espagnoles, vol. 1, docs. 9, 11. 

23. Nationaal Archief, Staten Generaal (hereafter NA, SG), no. 5773: 6 February 
1642. For the French translation of this document, see “Rapport de la commission forme 
par les XIX pour etudier le pro et le contre de la separation de Loanda avec le Bresil,” in 
Jadin, L’ancien Congo et I’Angola, vol. 1, doc. 76, pp. 200-202. 

24. NA, SG, no. 5773: 4 March 1642. For the French translation of this document, 
see “Arguments des commissaires de XIX contre un memoire des Etats-Generaux sur 
le gouvernement des nouvelles conquetes d’Afrique,” in Jadin, L’ancien Congo et I’AngoIa, 
vol. 1, doc. 84, pp. 237-239. 

25. “W. HH. Puissances, par leur lettre du 13 courant, nous ont charges de hater 
1 ’elaboration de 1 ’instruction sur le gouvernement du district sud de la cote d’Afrique. II 
s’etendra du sud de la ligne de ‘Equateur au cap de Bonne-Esperance, et comprendra 
notamment Sao Paulo de Loanda et Pile de Sao Tome. Nous avons etabli cette instruction 
ici, a la reunion de ce 19, selon votre demande, et nous en envoyons ci-joint la copie a W. 
HH. Puissance.” NA, SG, no. 5773: 19 March 1642. For the French translation of this 
document, see “Les XIX aux Etats-Generaux,” in Jadin, Lancien Congo et I’Angola, vol. 1, 
doc. 96, pp. 250-251. NA, OWIC 9: 19 April 1642. For the French translation of this docu- 
ment, see “Les XIX a Jacob Ruychaver, commandeur a la Guinee,” in Jadin, Lancien Congo 
et I’Angola, vol. 1, 1 : doc. 101, p. 271. 

26. NA, OWIC 9: 14 June 1642. For the French translation of this document, see: 
“Les XIX aux directeurs de Loanda,” in Jadin, L’ancien Congo et [’Angola, vol. 1, doc. 112, 
pp. 296-302. 

27. NA, OWIC 56, no. 23: 28 May 1641. For the French translation of this document, 
see: “Instruction du comte de Nassau et du conseil secret du Bresil pour l’admiral Jol, 

the south Atlantic, past and present Filipa Ribeiro da Silva 

P. Moortamer, C. Nieulant and J. Henderson,” in Jadin, L’ancien Congo et V Angola y vol. i, 
doc. 2 7, pp. 34-42. 

28. For further information on the disputes between the chambers of Amsterdam 
and Zealand regarding the investments in Brazil and the sponsoring of the military con- 
flicts with the Portuguese in this colony, see, for example, Emmer, “The West India Com- 
pany,” 71-95; Dillen, Van rijkdom en regenten, handbooktotdeeconomischeen sociale geschiedenis 
van Nederland tijdens de Republiek, 160-170. 

29. NA, OWIC 8: 3 August 1643. For the French translation of this document, see 
“Les XIX au gouverneur et au Conseil du Recife (extraits),” in Jadin, L’ancien Congo et I’AngoIa, 
vol. 1, doc. 165, pp. 466-467. 

30. Heijer, “The Western African Trade of the Dutch West India Company, 1674- 

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Schwartz, Segredos intern os; Mauro, Portugal, 0 Brasil e 0 Atldntico. 

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1582-1851,” 140-145. 

33. Smith, “Old Christian Merchants and the Foundation of the Brazil Company, 
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on the Neu; Transatlantic Slave Trade Database, 228-249. New Haven, CT: Yale University 
Press, 2008. 

fi li pa ribeiro da silva is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Macau 
(China). She obtained her PhD at Leiden University in 2009 after reading History and 
History of Portuguese Oceanic Expansion at the New University of Lisbon, where she 
received her BA honors and MA degrees in 1996 and 2002. Dutch and Portuguese in Western 
Ajrica: Empires, Merchants and the Atlantic System, 1580-1674 is her latest book. She may be 
reached at firisiii6(a) 



Brazil and the Politics of the Spanish Habsburgs 
in the South Atlantic, 1580-1640 

abstract: During the period of the Union of Spanish and Portuguese Crowns 
(1580-1640), known as the"lberian Union”or“Philippine Period, "global connections 
inside and outside the Spanish or "Universal Monarchy” underwent an important 
impulse. Specifically, Portuguese America and the territories in the South Atlantic 
experienced important transformations. Brazilian, Spanish, and Portuguese histo- 
riographical traditions in the past have dealt with this issue in very different ways. 
Nowadays there is a new historiography that has started to contemplate the ques- 
tion from a very different point of view, without nationalistic concerns. Questions 
about defense, administrative reforms, mine discovery, or global connections are 
emerging as the principal aspects to be considered. 

keywords: Iberian Union (1580-1640), new historiographical approaches, South 

During the period of the Union of the Crowns of Spain and Portugal, 1580-1640, 
a vast row of territories was united under the same king. From Macao to Lima, 
from Antwerp to Goa, from Olinda to the Maluku Islands, huge extensions of 
land separated by enormous spaces occupied large areas on maps and in the 
strategies of the counselors of the monarchs of the House of Austria in Madrid. 
The empire was complex and was in contact with different political, religious, 
and cultural realities. This was a Catholic empire — the “Catholic Monarchy,” as 
this conglomerate was known in those times — that confronted another large 
empire, also religious but not unified: the Islamic empire. When a vast territory 
was added in 1580 to the possessions held by Felipe II, this huge theater entered 
the first phases of globalization, or mondialisation, as Serge Gruzinski pointed 
out in a classic publication, since some 225 cities were under the reign of the 
same king and the same faith (Mass was heard every half an hour in some place 
on earth). 1 This macroempire was the corollary to the processes being devel- 

the south Atlantic, past and present Jose Manuel Santos Perez 

oped since the arrival of Columbus in America and of Vasco da Gama in India 
at the end of the fifteenth century. However, this is only part of a historical 
phenomenon — the origins of globalization — that had already experienced an 
important chapter with the expansion of Islam. There is no doubt that the incor- 
poration of South American and Asian territories to the Spanish and Portuguese 
Crowns during the sixteenth century led to planetary connections that were to 
transform the societies of the modern era in all its aspects, but mainly in the 
spheres of economy, religion, and culture. In this world in motion, configured 
under the power of the House of Austria, people witnessed monetary transac- 
tions, the transport of military contingents and merchandise, the transmission 
of ideas, the expansion of the Catholic religion, the migration of populations, 
and the transfer of artistic styles, all on a planetary scale. The Baroque, the first 
“global” artistic style, began its extraordinary expansion precisely during these 
times. Under the umbrella of the Catholic monarchy, two large networks with 
economic and religious connotations became consolidated: those of the Jesuits 
and the Sephardi Jews. The Jesuits, who had already taken positions in Africa and 
in Asia in preceding years, extended their sphere of action in this “world with- 
out borders,” achieving — for a religious order — an unprecedented degree of 
influence in political activities, beginning to construct their economic empire, 
and broadening their actions from Peru to Japan. Their expulsion from this Asian 
country in 1639 and from Sao Paulo in 1640 was, curiously, contemporaneous 
with the end of the Dynastic Union. 

The Sephardim, with a base first in Antwerp and then in Amsterdam, and 
sometimes working with the new Christians, used such bases to set up an im- 
mense network of businesses, which had repercussions spreading to all four 
corners of the earth. 

The immensity of South America and the Brazilian territory belonging to the 
Portuguese Crown, in particular, were another piece on this gigantic game 
board whose different parts were united precariously by political, economic, 
linguistic, and cultural links. It is thus essential to look at the “Philippine” pe- 
riod in Brazil from this perspective. With this in mind we shall strip ourselves of 
the different historiographical traditions that have hindered a global, impartial, 
and unbiased understanding of the important historical moments in the early 
modern era. 

The historiography relating to this period has been especially affected by the 
peculiar relations that, as of 1640, arose between Spain and Portugal, and later 


by the distance marked by Brazil with respect to its former metropolis since 
1822. Indeed, the period of Dynastic Union was traditionally seen by Portuguese 
historiography with a nationalist bent as a dark period, with a catastrophic re- 
sult for the situation in Portugal in the international arena. This interpretation 
is well known, and according to it the Portuguese “Restoration” of 1640 would 
have been a movement of the Portuguese people to liberate Portugal from Span- 
ish tyranny. 2 According to this interpretation, the Portuguese empire underwent 
a marked decadence during the years of the Union of Crowns, shrunken in its 
capacity for defense, and directed from a city in the interior (Madrid), where, as 
noted by Father Vieira, “you could only see the ocean in the pictures in the ‘Al- 
cazar.’” The negligence of the Habsburgs in regard to Portuguese possessions, 
their extreme preoccupation about the wars in Europe, and their lust for Ameri- 
can silver would have been responsible for the marginalization of the overseas 
Portuguese empire. 3 

For Brazilian historiography, this period had a very different meaning. In- 
sistent on showing the country’s differences with Portugal, aimed at the build- 
ing of its own identity, Brazilian historians saw this period not as interference by 
another country in Brazil’s own affairs but as a period marking the start of two 
contemporary processes that, from north to south, served as embryonic phe- 
nomena around which Brazilian identity was to be constructed, since both con- 
tributed importantly to defining some of the keys to contemporary Brazil. These 
two processes were the Dutch invasion of the Northeast and the consequent 
resistance by the inhabitants, and their later victory “a custa de nosso sangue e 
fazenda” (at the cost of our blood and our money), and the bandeirante phenom- 
enon in the South. These two processes constituted the starting point for the 
construction of a regional identity both in Pernambuco and in Sao Paulo. As 
of 1822, both processes would serve as strong motivation to reinforce political 
vindications in these regions with respect to the central Brazilian state, first 
during the empire and then during the Republican period. Accordingly, Brazil- 
ian historiography did not accord much importance to the Dynastic Union and 
its consequences. 

Toward New Approaches 

The situation described above is now beginning to change very fast due to new 
interpretations. The 1580-1640 period and the specific issue of the role ofBrazil 
among the territories belonging to the House of Austria have recently been at- 

the south Atlantic, past and present Jose Manuel Santos Perez 

tracting special attention. On the one hand, modernist historians such as Fer- 
nando Bouza, Rafael Valladares, and Jean Frederic Schaub have radically changed 
the former view of the period of the Dynastic Union and have placed it in its 
correct context after analyzing the complex relations of power between the dif- 
ferent factions of the Portuguese elite and the Spanish Habsburg. 

With regard to studies addressing Brazil, we should not overlook the classic 
books of Boxer, above all his extraordinary Saluador Correia de S a and the Struggle jor 
Brazil and Angola, one of the best books dealing with the period. 4 Another classic 
that is still valid is the book by Joaquim Verissimo Serrao, Do Brasil Filipino ao 
Brasil de 1640, an admirable work of historical research in Portuguese, Spanish, 
and Brazilian archives. 5 The above Valladares, too, has gone deeper into politi- 
cal issues during the Dynastic Union to analyze the role played by Brazil during 
this period. 6 Also important is the book by Professor Alencastro entitled 0 trato 
dos viventes, now a classic, although its chronology does not coincide exactly 
with that of the Union of the Crowns. This work invites us to view the Brazil of 
the seventeenth century in more precise terms, integrated within the context 
of the South Atlantic. 7 

Today there is rekindled interest in these matters. The special relation that 
has developed between Spain and Brazil over the past ten years shows that mu- 
tual interest has been generated on both sides. The Spanish and the Brazilians 
have suddenly become aware that in the mists of history there were already fore- 
runners of this “special relation.” Roseli Santaella Stella has published, in both 
Spanish and Portuguese, the work Brasil durante el gobierno espanol, 1580-1640, 
which extols the richness of the General Archives of Simancas in Spain for re- 
search into this period. 8 The most important work to emerge recently is prob- 
ably the thesis of Rafael Ruiz, entitled “Sao Paulo na Monarquia hispanica,” 
which was defended at the University of Sao Paulo and published in 2004. 9 This 
is the most advanced work addressing the issue in recent years. The most inci- 
sive points of the author’s reflections are the integration of Brazil within the 
context of the imperial politics of the Spanish Crown and, above all, the compar- 
ison between the policies destined for Brazil and those of the other parts of the 
Habsburg Empire in Latin America. Other works are now under way and should 
soon offer us novel approaches and interpretations. One example is the thesis 
of Alirio Cardoso, “Maranhao na Monarquia Hispanica,” which he is currently 
preparing at the University of Salamanca; another is that of Guida Marques, de- 
fended in 2009 at the Ecole de Hautes Etudes de Paris, with the title “L’invention 


du Bresil entre deux monarchies: Gouvernement et pratiques politiques de l’Amer- 
ique portugaise dans 1 ’Union Iberique.” 

The results reported in these works are very important. They begin to answer 
the following important but still unresolved question: what historical signifi- 
cance can we give to the entry of Brazil into the Spanish empire in America in 
1580? It has been suggested that Brazil represented a good asset in terms of both 
its economic riches and its strategic importance. In the words of Valladares, 
“The same as Portugal with respect to the Iberian Peninsula, [Brazil would be] 
the perfect defensive complement for the deployment of the imperialistic strat- 
egy of the Catholic King.” 10 Nevertheless, around 1580, the benefits from the 
Brazilian sugarcane industry were still not very important, and the structure of 
the Portuguese Crown was too weak to guarantee that taxes would be collected 
in a timely fashion and with complete security in Salvador or Olinda. It was 
deemed necessary to set up a much more efficient fiscal and administrative 
structure. And although Brazil might indeed have represented a strengthening 
of the Spanish position south of the equator, taking into account its strategic 
value, the reality was that in 1580 the territory was almost undefended, which 
demanded a tremendous effort in construction and workforce to guarantee pos- 
session of the territory and prevent it from falling into the hand of the Catholic 
king’s enemies. The geographic location of Brazil meant that it was both the 
“back” of Peru and the “doorway” into it. The way in which the Habsburg had 
conceived the transport system and communication routes meant that silver 
was sent to the port of El Callao, where it was loaded for transport to Panama, 
eventually to arrive, via Cuba, in Spain. The passage through Brazil, or through 
the territory more to the south, the Rio de la Plata, was to be avoided at all costs. 
However, with the Union of the Iberian Crowns, the territory began to be con- 
sidered in a different light: the geographic location of Brazil constituted a huge 
shield that could act as a defense of the most valuable territories of Spanish 
America. Moreover, its privileged location could also be used as the doorway 
toward the same territories or as a point of departure for mining production, 
using the ports of Santa Catarina or Rio de Janeiro as export points for silver. 
This was a hypothesis that was not considered by the Crown, who had no inten- 
tion whatsoever of changing the above-mentioned transport system, but was a 
wish expressed continually by the elite of Portuguese America, who wished to 
share the unceasing flow of precious metals with Spanish America. 


the south Atlantic, past and present Jose Manuel Santos Perez 

The commercial exclusivity and the transport system were designed to pro- 
tect the goods from the many enemies of the Crown that threatened the Atlantic 
routes and also seemed to threaten Portuguese possessions in Hispanic Amer- 
ica. From the documentation consulted, one may conclude that the Spanish 
Crown was really worried about the defense of the Brazilian territory. Shortly 
after coming to the throne of Portugal, Felipe II sent an important fleet (twenty- 
three ships and five thousand men) under the orders of Captain Flores Valdes to 
populate the Magellanic strait and clear the area of English ships. Another task 
for the fleet was to reconnoiter the Brazilian territory and show off the power of 
the new king, thereby extending the military operations involved in the con- 
quest of Portugal to the territories abroad. During this important expedition, 
Valdes left some five hundred men, women, and children in Sao Vicente, where 
he ordered the construction of a fort. It was also during this expedition that the 
first fort in Paraiba was built (later renamed Forte Velho), the origin of Filipeia, 
the first urban nucleus in the zone. Valdes himself, in one of his letters to the 
king, referred to the territory of Sao Vicente as “the back of Peru.” It was neces- 
sary to populate the territory to prevent it from falling into the hands of the ene- 
mies of the Catholic Monarch. Felipe II felt personally worried about the situa- 
tion on the Brazilian coast, and also about the situation of Valdes, according to 
the annotations he made with his own hand on the reports arriving from the 
region telling him about the presence of the English close to Rio de Janeiro. 11 

Some years before 1624, the year of Dutch attack against Salvador de Bahia, 
the Batavians began to arouse the interest of the authorities in Madrid. In 1613, 
in the times of the Twelve-Year Truce, Felipe III wrote to the Portuguese viceroy 
informing him that the Dutch were preparing a fleet to attack Pernambuco. 12 
Also, during the same period, the Crown approved the launching of several re- 
lief fleets to stop the French from becoming definitively entrenched in Maran- 
hao. 13 Another consultation from the Council of Portugal directed to the Duke 
of Lerma in 1615 warned of the danger to the Spanish empire of the constant 
presence of the English and the Dutch in the “Rio de las Amazonas.” In his 
words, foreign presence was “the most important issue of the times, since this 
river [The Amazon] marks the limit with Peru . . . and at the same time . . . [we 
must] castigate the French at Maranhao.” 14 As it is known, the Portuguese in 
the same year, with the aid of some Spanish soldiers, an indigenous army, and 
the forces at Pernambuco, expelled the French from the region. Moreover, on 



9 April 1607, the Junta de Hacienda de Portugal, meeting in Madrid, asked the 
Portuguese authorities (Conselho da Fazenda) to order the governors of Brazil, 
Angola, Santo Tome, and Mina to embark and go to their posts to strengthen 
the security in the area, threatened by the Dutch fleets. In this request we see 
that the authorities in Madrid understood that security in the South Atlantic was 
not an individual issue of each territory; on the contrary, it had to be reinforced 
on all flanks if territorial losses were to be prevented. 15 

The preoccupation with the defense of Portuguese America was therefore 
one of the most important issues of the overseas policies of the Hispanic mon- 
archy in the last quarter of the sixteenth century and the beginning of the seven- 
teenth. It was at this time that an important string of forts was created along the 
coast. Some of them constituted the origin of the coastal cities that are now the 
capitals of the coastal states of Brazil. The forts built at the end of the sixteenth 
century and beginning of the seventeenth were Forte Presepio (Belem); Sao Jose 
in Macapa; Sao Felipe in Maranhao (Sao Luis de Maranhao); Sao Sebastiao (the 
origin of Fortaleza), plus another two forts in Ceara; Reis Magos at the mouth of 
the Potengi; Cabedelo and Santo Antonio in Paraiba; Sao Jorge and Forte do Mar 
in Pernambuco; Monte Serrate, Santo Antonio da Barra, Santa Maria, Sao Diogo, 
and another three forts in Bahia: three forts at Espiritu Santo; five forts at Rio de 
Janeiro; and Santo Amaro da Barra Grande in Sao Paulo, which was joined to the 
two preexisting ones. 16 We cannot say that the construction of this line of de- 
fense was “planned,” but it is unquestionable that the joint action of men “on 
the spot” and the interests of the Crown in strengthening its power in the terri- 
tory were determinant. 

As was suspected since the sixteenth century, it was also believed that the 
Brazilian territory harbored important deposits of precious metals. Tales about 
the existence of gold and silver within the Brazilian territory (the sertao) were 
innumerable, but toward the end of the sixteenth century the Crown did give 
some credibility to the project of Gabriel Soares de Sousa, the author of Tratado 
descritivo do Brasil. 17 Gabriel had received news from his brother Joao Coelho de 
Sousa about the existence of important deposits of gold inside the captaincy of 
Bahia, along the Sao Francisco River (curiously, this river was to be one of the 
axes used to penetrate the interior toward gold-producing areas from the start 
of the eighteenth century). Gabriel Soares was so sure of the truth of what his 
brother had told him that he traveled to Madrid trying to “sell” the story to Fe- 
lipe II in exchange for a fair number of important exceptional powers that the 


the south Atlantic, past and present Jose Manuel Santos Perez 

king agreed to bestow on him if he found the mines. He stayed in Madrid be- 
tween 1587 and 1590. His voyage was a big success, since Felipe II gave him 
great privileges, which Gabriel communicated to the new governor of Brazil, 
Francisco de Sousa. The extent of his powers is even more striking if we note 
that at that time the Spanish empire in America was undergoing a profound 
administrative reorganization (ordered by Felipe II and put into effect by Viceroy 
Francisco de Toledo), through which the power of the Crown was increased 
substantially; the establishment of the corregidores and of the alcaldes mayores was 
set up, and this decreased the power of the first conquistadores and of the Church, 
although these measures helped to create a new economic and administrative 

Gabriel Soares de Sousa benefited from powers that can be compared with 
those of the donatarios, among which the king distributed the territory of Brazil as 
from 1534. He garnered a personal guard of two hundred men. He was awarded 
the right to appoint the officials of the justice and treasury systems, and could 
even award the habits of the Order of Christ to some of his closest relatives, as 
well as the title of “cavaleiro-fidalgo” to one hundred men in his five surround- 
ings. The explorer began the expedition to the mines in 1591, together with five 
companies of men, but he died in the attempt. 18 

Nevertheless, the lure of fabulous treasures in the form of deposits of gold 
and silver did not end with the death of Gabriel Soares de Sousa. His project was 
taken up again by the governor himself, Francisco de Sousa, who must have 
long dwelt on the possibilities of making a fortune as the discoverer of the 
mines, or perhaps on the possibility of being awarded powers similar to those 
of Gabriel Soares. In fact, he convinced himself that it would be better to take 
that risk than await the favors of the king in the hope of obtaining a better posi- 
tion in the future. 

Before leaving the post of governor to his successor, Diogo Botelho, Fran- 
cisco de Sousa visited the southern regions, the capitamas de baixo, in particular 
the territory of Sao Paulo, to gather firsthand information about the existence of 
the mines. In 1606 he traveled to Madrid to try to persuade the authorities of the 
advantages of his plan, but the Council of Portugal asked him for further infor- 
mation. The ex-governor therefore drew up the twenty-four apontamientos with 
details about what he wanted to do and the advantages of his project. Sousa de- 
manded (and was mostly granted) important privileges: those formerly received 
by Gabriel Soares de Sousa, as well as other new pluses, such as 5 percent of the 


revenue from the mines and the title of marquis (if the revenue exceeded 500,000 
cruzados). Above all, he was awarded the privilege of becoming the new gover- 
nor, completely independent of Salvador de Bahia, of the three capitanias de baixo, 
that is, Sao Vicente, Espirito Santo, and Rio de Janeiro, which actually meant the 
division of the “state of Brazil” into two parts: the North, with its governor in 
Bahia, and the capitanias of the South, or “Reparticao do Sul,” with Francisco 
de Sousa as the governor. The king also exonerated him from having to do his 
residencia, the process scrutinizing his past as governor-general of Brazil. 19 The 
request to abolish the restrictions to commerce between Buenos Aires and the 
“Capitanias do Sul,” proposed by Francisco in the thirteenth apontamiento, with 
the argument that it would be much easier and profitable to send supplies from 
the Hispanic-American region than from Portugal, was judged favorably by the 
Council of Portugal but was rejected by the Junta de Hacienda de Portugal, a kind 
of economic council formed by Portuguese and Spanish members, overarching 
the Portuguese institutions, that ran from 1602 to 1608 as a counterweight to 
Portuguese power. 20 Accepting this request would have meant the official rec- 
ognition of the end of the economic exclusivity (enforced by the Crown of Cas- 
tile since the beginning of Spanish presence in America) and would have opened 
the door officially to commercial relations that, clandestinely, were already tak- 
ing place. 

Sousa’s plan also considered the possibility of “reducing” the Indians for 
work in the mines that were to be discovered. As the same time that he vindi- 
cated aid for the arrival of Portuguese colonists, he also suspected that the most 
“flexible” and servile manpower would come from the indigenous population, 
which was very large in the region of Sao Paulo. This was nothing new: was it 
not also the case in Peru and Mexico, where the mines received thousands of 
workers for the extraction of ore? It was merely a question of putting into prac- 
tice what the Spanish had been doing over the previous twenty years. The Crown 
accepted the request on the condition that the natives were recruited peacefully. 
However, the underlying issue was much more complicated. In Portuguese Amer- 
ica, the question of the indigenous peoples’ role in the colonial system had been 
addressed only marginally by the different governments. The Crown had left 
it to the Jesuits to tackle the problems of these populations (above all the Tupfs 
from the coast). The timid attempts to implement a specific policy had been 
condemned to failure. The legislative measures concerning the indigenous had 
started with the re^imento of the first governor, Tome de Sousa, but it was the law 

the south at la ntsc, past and present Jose Manuei Santos Perez 

of 1570, in the reign of D. Sebastiao, that represented the first attempt to pro- 
hibit the enslavement of the indigenous peoples. The Portuguese Crown tried to 
take control of the native peoples with the creation in 1564 of the figure of capitao 
de aldeia, an agent of the Crown who was responsible for the administration of 
the indigenous populations. These measures were inefficient and did not really 
work. In 1595 and 1596 Felipe II renewed the prohibition of slavery with the 
law “Sobre se nao poderem captivar os gentios ...” and the law providing for 
the freedom of the Indians, which was the most important attempt to imple- 
ment a coherent policy for the Tupis in the territory of Portuguese America. The 
power to subject the indigenous peoples continued in the hands of the Jesuits, 
but the law put into effect a work regime for the Indians and created the post of 
procurador, designated by the governor, whose job was to supervise the situation 
within the aldeias. Thus it was a specific legislation that, on one hand, prohibited 
slavery (except in the case of war declared by the king) and, on the other, orga- 
nized a system — reminiscent of the one put into practice in Peru — so that the 
natives could serve as a workforce in the mines (which were still to be discov- 
ered) , on agricultural exploitations (fazendas ) , and in public works in the Brazil- 
ian capitanfas. 21 

Neither of these legislative measures was effective. The authorities of the 
Habsburg monarchy soon had to legislate so that the Jesuits would have a new 
position in the colonial system. The Spanish monarchy believed that the Portu- 
guese Crown had given too much power to the Company of Jesus during the first 
years of power consolidation in Brazil. In order to counteract this situation, the 
authorities promoted the alvaras (decrees) of 1609 and 1611. Through the decree 
of 1609, Felipe III set up a system to use the manpower of the indigenous peo- 
ples, which placed the Jesuits in the role of intermediates between those and the 
objective needs of the colonists. In 1611, the Crown went much further by pub- 
lishing the decree to strip the Jesuits of their temporal power definitively, return- 
ing to the institution of capitaes de aldeia for the governor of the indigenous com- 
munities. 22 At the same time, the Spanish Crown encouraged the organization 
of entradas, expeditions with the dual aim of searching for precious metals and 
capturing Indians for work in the mines or on agricultural plots in the region 
of Sao Paulo, but always avoiding their enslavement and guaranteeing their pro- 
tection through the Jesuits present in the zone. It is possible that this was one of 
the origins of the “bandeiras,” the famous adventures of the Paulist inhabitants 
during the colonial period. 


It is important to recall that during the same period the Crown had asked 
other religious orders, perhaps with fewer scruples than the Jesuits when orga- 
nizing obligatory work for the indigenous peoples, to install themselves in the 
southern regions of Brazil; this facilitated the expansion of the Franciscans, the 
Carmelites, and the Benedictines. The imperial policy must have represented a 
serious drawback to the aims of the Portuguese Jesuits, who at that point began 
to support the noble factions opposing the power of the Spanish Habsburgs. 23 

As it is known, at the end of the sixteenth century and the beginning of the 
seventeenth the Spanish Crown started an important legal and administrative 
reform of the imperial institutions in the Portuguese empire: this period saw the 
creation of the Conselho da India, the Ordenagoes Filipinas (the civil code in 
force in Brazil up to the twentieth century) and, above all for the case of Brazil, 
the court of the Relacao de Bahia (the Supreme Court), founded in 1609. Al- 
though the Conselho da India was no longer functioning by 1614, it is clear that 
in Madrid, above all in the period of Felipe III, the authorities wished to change 
the way in which the matters of the Portuguese empire had been dealt with be- 
fore the Dynastic Union. The aim was to establish a structure similar to that 
of the Spanish empire in America (which also had a Consejo de Indias). The 
Relacao, which was very active up to 1619, brought royal justice closer and af- 
forded a more efficient legal system, somewhat chaotic since the sixteenth cen- 
tury. It was also a way to harmonize the Brazilian colonial administrative struc- 
ture with that of the Spanish territories in America, where the tribunals of the 
audiencias had been developed since the beginning of the sixteenth century. 

It is likely that the most important measures of the Spanish Crown in regard 
to Brazil were the reforms in the configuration of the territory. As mentioned 
earlier, the Crown designated Francisco de Sousa as governor of the Repar- 
ticao Sul, one of the main crafters of this new system, with the same powers as 
the governor-general of Bahia. The measure was struck down by the very king — 
Felipe III — who had promoted it, but the idea of a “southern region,” different 
from the other territories, was to mark for a a long time the configuration of 
Brazil and the direction that the relations between the Paulistas and the imperial 
authorities would take before and after the Portuguese restoration. 

However, the most important measure concerning the organization of the 
Brazilian territory was taken in 1621 — the division of the territory into two ad- 
ministrative units: the Estado do Brasil, with its capital in Salvador, and the 
Estado do Maranhao, to the north, which first had Sao Luiz as its capital and, 


the south Atlantic, fast and present Jose Manuel Santos Perez 

later, Belem do Para. Although the measure seems logical, since communica- 
tions between Sao Luiz Maranhao and Lisbon were easier than those with Salva- 
dor, there remain still many questions about this decision, which lasted much 
longer than the division of southern Brazil (this configuration was to be main- 
tained by the Bragangas and was not abolished until 1772). It was also an im- 
portant measure regarding defense in a territory that was to be the vanguard of 
the Portuguese expansion in Brazilian territory. It would be useful to know what 
role was played in the reorganizational process by local actors, who were always 
present at the debates addressing colonial organization within the metropolitan 

Consequently, we must abandon our former views about the question of the 
Hispanic monarchy’s actions in the South Atlantic and reinstate Brazil within 
the general context of the “universal monarchy,” and even within a global con- 
text. There are issues that remain to be explored. The problem is no longer one 
of knowing whether or not the Habsburg monarchy meddled in Portuguese 
matters, or even whether or not it was interested in the Portuguese empire in 
America, Africa, and Asia. It has been some time now since historians such as 
Charles Boxer and others, pointed out the interest of the Habsburgs in the Por- 
tuguese overseas empire, and we only have to look in the archives at Simancas, 
in the sections “Estado” or “Secretaries Provinciales,” to see the amount of 
activity deployed by the different agencies based in Madrid or by people close to 
the king with regard to Portuguese interests abroad. The question today is how 
to clarify the origin of that unquestionable interest: was it an interest associated 
with the rest of the territory of Spanish America, either to facilitate better inte- 
gration or, on the contrary, to prevent Portuguese America from becoming a 
problem for defense and a terrain favorable to escape from the monopole sys- 
tem? Or were they seeking to develop a specific policy only for Brazil? The ques- 
tion is, finally, how was Brazil considered in the Spanish court in the seven- 
teenth century? 

We cannot yet answer this complex question in all of its ramifications. We 
need more precise knowledge about the consideration given to Brazil within 
the heart of a monarchy that, at the beginning of the seventeenth century, had 
reached its maximum extension and had begun, at the same time, a slow process 
of collapse and decline. It would first be necessary to place these issues within 
the scenario of the general development of the Spanish presence in America. It 
is natural to speculate that the Habsburgs wished to adapt the system of Portu- 


guese America to the one that they had put into operation in Spanish America 
since the middle of the sixteenth century. This was a system based on the pro- 
duction of precious metals in which the indigenous people played a very im- 
portant role in terms of both the provision of manpower and the collection of 
tributes. It was a system in which the Crown had established a very extensive, 
but fairly inexpensive, administrative structure, which became increasingly fi- 
nanced locally through the sale of public offices. Perhaps there was no “strate- 
gic” plan designed by Madrid for the Brazilian territory. Instead, it seems more 
likely that most of the measures and decisions taken for Portuguese America 
were implemented after events had occurred. But one could equally argue that 
the men on the spot wished to portray Brazil as “another Potosf” and that the 
Crown itself believed that the territory might be similar to that of Peru, and — 
why not — that it would have possibilities for development by following the same 
principles already established for the Peruvian territory during the previous 
century. The “mirage” had disappeared in the 1620s, at the start of the reign of 
Felipe IV, since at that time the main issue was not to find gold but to try to hold 
the territory in face of the Dutch threat. Conservation of the territory was linked 
not only to sugar production, but also to the possibility that the Dutch might use 
the Brazilian territory to attack Peru or as a base to whittle down and weaken the 
Iberian commercial system in the Atlantic. 

The administrative reforms, the fiscal and territorial organization, the search 
for mines, the reaction against the threats of other European powers (mainly 
the Dutch and the French), and the policies relating to the indigenous peoples 
were the most important lines of action of the Spanish Habsburg in Portuguese 
America. There was no precise plan, but there was undoubtedly an internal logic: 
that of considering the ensemble of territories of the Universal Monarchy in 
America from a common perspective. 

What can we say about cultural issues? If the economic, political, and adminis- 
trative aspects of the Philippine period cannot be ignored in the configuration of 
colonial Brazil, can the same be said of cultural aspects? Were they as important 
as other matters? First, it seems necessary to make a few observations concern- 
ing this scenario. Beginning with the autonomy ceded by Felipe II to Portugal in 
the structure of the Hispanic monarchy, there is no doubt that the Spanish kings 
took important decisions that were sometimes ratified by the autonomous Por- 
tuguese institutions, while on other occasions they were imposed without dis- 


the south Atlantic, past and present Jose Manuel Santos Perez 

cussion. 24 It is because of this that we can say that the period of the Dynastic 
Union had important repercussions on the legislative and political development 
of Portuguese America. The case of cultural development is a priori very differ- 
ent, since in theory there was no “standardizing” cultural policy launched by 
Madrid. However, as Serge Gruzinski pointed out, during the period of the Union 
of the Iberian Crowns a phenomenon of mondialisation took hold; this affected a 
large number of cultural manifestations in that period, which undoubtedly also 
affected Portugal and its territories abroad. Despite the difficulties in installing 
efficient control, the Habsburg were interested in the politics of propaganda 
and the control of dissidence. 25 Mannerism became the first “global” artistic 
style, clearly marking the expansion of the universal Baroque of the Counter- 
Reformation, which was to have centers of expansion “in all corners of the 
world.” Castilian was spoken in the intellectual spheres, especially in Portugal, 
where Spanish became the working tongue of many Portuguese writers. The 
intellectual trends, objets d’art, exotic products, and so on all traveled from one 
side of the Atlantic to the other, just as they traveled between the Asian, Euro- 
pean, and American continents, in such a way that for the first time in history one 
could speak of an “interconnected” world. In this sense, it is possible to regard 
the Dynastic Union as a period that enabled the entry of Portuguese America 
into the “world theater.” From 1580 on, the Brazilian territory saw the develop- 
ment of very important aspects of European cultural life, especially the circula- 
tion of literary and political works. At that time, thanks to the exchange of infor- 
mation, material objects, and experiences, seventeenth-century Europe received 
the news and events taking place in Brazil with great curiosity, and they were 
re-created in many artistic works. The entry of Brazil into the universal monarchy 
of the Habsburgs was at the same time accompanied by a period of important 
economic and demographic development (e.g., the production of sugar increased, 
above all in Pernambuco and in Bahia). 26 During these times, an important ex- 
pansion began in the already established urban centers. Around the recently 
built fortresses, urban centers began to flourish, such as those at Filipeia, Natal, 
and Sao Luiz Maranhao. The ports in particular, including Rio de Janeiro, Salva- 
dor, and Olinda/Recife, underwent the strongest development. A description 
of the most important artistic and architectural achievements of the period is 
beyond the scope of this present contribution and has been done elsewhere. 27 
However, it is important to note the lack of works devoted to this-aspect, one of 
the most important angles for those who want to understand the Brazil of the 



Habsburg Empire. We do not know whether Portuguese America was affected 
by the process of “Castilianization” observed among the Portuguese intellectu- 
als of the period. We still lack a detailed study of Brazilian urban elite in this rich 
period . 28 In general, the Brazilian culture during the Dynastic Union has been 
neglected by historiography. The historians who have worked on this period, 
with a few exceptions (e.g., the work by Ricardo Evaristo dos Santos ), 29 have not 
paid much attention to the cultural side, whereas art and literary historians have 
addressed the issue in an isolated way, apart from the political and social events. 
As Rafael Ruiz has pointed out, it is interesting that the legislation concerning 
the Indians enacted by the Habsburg (and above all Felipe III) during the first 
years of the seventeenth century had the final aim of reducing the power of the 
Jesuits. In the long run, this favored the expansion of other religious orders, the 
same ones who were in the vanguard of introducing into Brazil new architec- 
tural and aesthetic canons that, at that time, were in vogue in Europe. To gain 
further insight into these marginalized aspects it would be necessary to broaden 
the scope of study, combining the documents with archaeological remains. This 
would undoubtedly help us to progress in our study of this fascinating period. 


This research has been financed by the regional government of Castilla y Leon 
through the project “Las relaciones hispanobrasilenas en perspectiva historical Historias 
comunes y representaciones mutuas en dos periodos cruciales: Siglos XVII y XIX” (Ref. 
SA023A08) and by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Innovation through the project 
“Redes politicas, comerciantes y militares en Brasil durante la Monarquia Hispanica y 
sus postrimerias (1580-1680)” (Ref. HAR2012-35978). 

1. Socolow and Hoberman, Cities and Societies in Colonial Latin America (Albuquerque: 
University of Mexico Press, 1986), 3, cited in Gruzinski, Les quatre parties du monde. 

2. Valladares, Portugal y la monarquia hispanica, 1580-1668. 

3. Ferreira Martins, 0 Dommio de Castela e 0 Imperio Oriental. 

4. Boxer, Salvador Correia de S a. 

5. Serrao, Do Brasil Filipino ao Brasil de 1640. 

6. Valladares, “Brasil: De la Union de Coronas a la crisis de Sacramento (1580-1680),” 
and “El Brasil y las Indias espanolas durante la sublevacion de Portugal (1640-1668).” 

7. Alencastro, 0 trato dos uiuentes. 

8. Stella, 0 Dommio Espanhol no Brasil durante a monarquia dos Felipes, 1580-1640. 

9. Ruiz, Sao Paulo na monarquia hispanica. 


the south Atlantic, past and present Jose Manuel Santos Perez 

10. Valladares, “El Brasil y las Indias espanolas durante la sublevacion de Portugal 
(1640-1668),” 152. 

11. University of Salamanca Archives, Ms. 2657, “Consultas a Felipe II,” 1583. 

12. General Archives of Simancas (AGS), “Secretarias Provinciales,” Libro 1506. 

13. AGS, “Secretarias Provinciales,” Libro 1596. 

14. AGS, “Estado,” 260. 

15. AGS, “Secretarias Provinciales,” Libro 1466, fol. 193. 

16. Ruiz, “The Spanish-Dutch War and the Policy of the Spanish Crown toward the 
Town ofSao Paulo,” Itinerario 26, no. 1 (2002), 109. 

1 7. Serrao, Do Brasil Filipino ao Brasil de 1640, 62. 

18. Ibid., 66. 

19. Ibid., 119; AGS, “Secretarias Provinciales,” 1466, fol. 299 passim. 

20. Luxan Melendez, “El control de la hacienda portuguesa desde el poder central.” 

21. Santos, Guerreros antropojagos, 91-92. 

22. Ruiz, Sao Paulo na monarquia hispdnica. 

23. Valladares, Portugal y la monarquia hispdnica. 

24. Stella, 0 dommio espanhol no Brasil. 

25. Gruzinski, Les quatre parties du monde. 

26. Gonzalo Rivero, Brazil: The Crucial Years (1570-1612). 

27. Santos Perez, “Brasil durante la Union Iberica.” 

28. Silva, “Fidalgos, capitaes e senhores de engenho.” 

29. Santos, El Brasil jilipino. 


Alencastro, Luiz Felipe. 0 trato dos uiuentes: Formafao do Brasil no Atlantico Sul. Sao Paulo, 

Boxer, Charles. Salvador Correia de Sa and the Struggle for Brazil and Angola (1602-1686). 
London, 1952. 

Ferreira Martins, J. F. 0 Domtnio de Castela e 0 Imperio Oriental. Oporto, 1940. 

Gonzalo Rivero, Diego. Brazil: The Crucial Years (1570-1612). Athens, GA, 1981. 

Gruzinski, Serge. Les quatre parties du monde: Histoire d’une mondialisation. Paris, 2004. 
Luxan Melendez, S. “El control de la hacienda portuguesa desde el poder central: La 
Junta de Hacienda de Portugal, 1602-1608.” Reuista da Faculdade de Letras, 2nd series, 
vol. 9. Oporto, 1992. 

Ruiz, Rafael. “The Spanish-Dutch War and the Policy of the Spanish Crown toward the 
Town ofSao Paulo.” Itinerario, 26, no. 1 (2002). 

Ruiz, R. Sao Paulo na monarquia hispdnica. Sao Paulo, 2004. 


f n 


Santos, R. E. dos. El Brasil Filipino: 60 anos depresencia espanola en Brasil (1580-1540). 
Madrid, 1993. 

Santos, Lavinia C. M. T. dos. Guerreros antropofagos: La vision europea del indigena brasileno y 
la obra del jesuita Jose de Anchieta (1534-1597). La Laguna, 1997. 

Santos Perez, J. M. “Brasil durante la Union Iberica: Algunas notas sobre el intercambio 
cultural entre las dos orillas del Atlantico.” In Dia'logos Culturais, Brasil-Espanha. 

Madrid and Sao Paulo, 2006. 

Serrao, Joaquim Verfssimo. Do Brasil Filipino ao Brasil de 1640. Sao Paulo, 1968. 

Silva, Kalina Vanderley. “Fidalgos, capitaes e senhores de engenho: O Humanismo, o 
Barroco e o dialogo cultural entre Castela e a sociedade agucareira (Pernambuco, 
seculos XVI e XVII).” Varia Historia 28, no. 47 (January/June 2012). 

Stella, Roseli Santaella. 0 Dommio Espanho! no Brasil durante a monarquia dos Felipes, 
1580-1540. Sao Paulo, 2000. 

Valladares, Rafael. “Brasil: De la Union de Coronas a la crisis de Sacramento (1580- 
1680).” In J. Manuel Santos Perez, ed., Acuarela de Brasil, 500 anos despues: Cinco ensayos 
sobre la realidad historica y economica brasilena. Salamanca, 2000. 

Valladares, Rafael. Portugal y la monarquia hispanica, 1580-1558. Madrid, 2000. 

Valladares, Rafael. “El Brasil y las Indias espanolas durante la sublevacion de Portugal 
(1640-1668).” Cuademos de Historia Moderna 14 (1993). 

jos£ manuel santos p^rez is a lecturer in Latin American history at the University 
of Salamanca in Spain. His works focus on the colonial history of Spanish America in 
the eighteenth century and most recently in the history of Brazil and the South Atlantic 
in the seventeenth century. He is conducting a research project titled “Military, Political 
and Trade Networks in Brazil under Spanish Rule, 1580-1640.” Among his works are El 
desaflo holandes al Dominio Iberico en Brasil en el siglo XVII (2006) and Brasil na monarquia his- 
panica (pending publication). He may be reached at 



Linguistic Legacies and Postcolonial 
Identities in West Africa 

Cape Verde, Senegal, and the Western World 

abstract: Over the last two centuries, the western part of the African continent has 
been a place of dilution and reinvention of linguistic boundaries. This article consid- 
ers Senegal and Cape Verde as a whole to assess the pertinence of a language-based 
identity (Francophone or Lusophone) born out of the colonial relationship and ap- 
pearing in a contemporary globalized world. To apprehend colonial languages as 
legacies calls to emerge from too-restrictive spatial and temporal constraints in 
order to consider changes in its actual geographical, symbolic, and historical poros- 
ity. This article examine in parallel two territories usually studied separately and 
gives an account of a constantly changing postcolonial inheritance of which the 
South Atlantic is the first witness. 

keywords: linguistic legacies, cultural identity, West Africa. 

Linguistic Legacies in Africa: Time and Space Issues 

A historian working in a field traditionally dominated by linguists must pay con- 
stant attention to the relationship between the topic of study and the tools of 
research. The very notion of “heritage” in history implies a specific approach, 
which leads to an image of a contemporary situation influenced by previous 
events. In this prospect, postcolonial studies questions the multiple aspects 
of what can be apprehended as a colonial heritage and helps in understanding 
linguistic legacies in Africa. It guides the historian not in criticizing or judging 
what produced colonialism, but in focusing on the aftermath of the colonial 
(Young 2009). One difficulty here is to avoid considering the current situation in 
Cape Verde and in Senegal — and their inclusion both in a world culture and 
in a very Lusophone or Francophone universe — as exclusively the consequence 
of decades of colonial domination. Whereas it may be perceived as an oppres- 
sion as well as a valuable contribution, the presence of the Portuguese language 



in Cape Verde or the French language in Senegal should be interpreted in their 
continuities and changes. To overcome the ideological caesura of independences 
necessarily leads to work on processes of decolonizations. 1 Both languages 
have been imposed in Cape Verde and Senegal, consciously ignoring the popu- 
lations’ mother tongues; paradoxically, the French and Portuguese languages 
also contributed to the political emancipation of these two countries. Since the 
independences, French and Portuguese have also perpetuated a de facto imposi- 
tion on national language(s); meanwhile, the presence of these two languages — 
which acquired an official status in both countries — came to represent a geo- 
political strength in external relations and, more unexpectedly, a guarantor of 
linguistic diversity at the national level, conditioned by political choices and 
changes in global cultural transfers. Thus in term of linguistic legacies from a 
historical perspective, it is necessary to go beyond a radical approach consider- 
ing the imported language only as an oppressive factor, as it is often analyzed by 
the postcolonial critic. But in the meantime we need to understand — following 
the emergence of postcolonial studies- — that the current situation is still partly 
shaped by political-ideological tendencies from the colonial era. Insofar as “the 
globe has undergone a linguistic revolution over the past centuries” (Macqueen 
2007: 157), Africa has experienced the genesis of this upheaval within the few 
decades under colonial rule. 

Since it is detrimental for a contemporary and comparative study on Africa to 
approach its subject from a single language — “linguistic inadequacy,” 2 in the 
words of Achille Mbembe 3 — it is equally prejudicial to study cultural inheritages 
in history without considering diachronic linguistics, language geography, or 
cultural anthropology. However, as Cecile Van den Avenne (2012) has pointed 
out, synergy between historians and linguists working on the linguistic aspect 
of the colonization is still poorly exploited. Moreover, spaces are usually studied 
following the contours of ancient empires, thus limiting a global and compara- 
tive understanding of the phenomenon. Here one must take a nuanced approach 
to avoid an excessive credulity in disciplines that are irrelevant for history. On 
the one hand, we would not interfere in debates about whether Cape Verdean 
society is in a situation of bilingualism or diglossia, or whether Dakar’s popula- 
tion gives a perfect example ofWolof-French code-switching. On the other hand, 
such concepts are useful to historians to put into perspective how effective as- 
similation theory has been in the Four Communes, or the extent to which the 
literary movement Claridade in Cape Verde reconsidered its insular specificity in 


the south Atlantic, past and present Alexis Diagne Thevenod 

contrast to, and on, the Portuguese and Brazilian models. 4 Our purpose, then, 
is not to get into these cultural legacies through one or another historiographi- 
cal tenet, but to consider broader perspectives provided by more interdisciplin- 
ary approaches of history — or, in other words, to use interdisciplinarity wisely 
for the benefit of history. Moreover, the very language in which the history of 
these spaces — Cape Verde and Senegal, but more broadly Lusophone and Fran- 
cophone Africa — has been written is of great significance, and research should 
be read and interpreted from this standpoint. 5 

From all colonial legacies, the linguistic one is probably the most pregnant, 
and not the least ambiguous. Linguists Ali and Alamin Mazrui (1998: 9) saw in 
the complex linguistic situation on the African continent as a whole the combi- 
nation of a “weak linguistic nationalism and the non-expansionist history of 
much of Africa that made the continent vulnerable to increasing linguistic pen- 
etration by the more expansionist Western world, ” resulting over the decades in 
“an imbalance in the global flow of languages, creating in Africa a complex and 
dynamic linguistic constellation.” The authors concluded also that “Africa’s tri- 
ple linguistic heritage essentially refers to the interaction of indigenous Africa, 
the Islamic tradition and the Western contribution” (ibid.: 70). This latter asser- 
tion can be true for most of continental Africa — and Senegalese society is well 
described by this triptych — but it cannot be applied to Cape Verdean society, 
where the Islamic tradition has not been relevant in language development and 
where interaction between Europeans and Africans took place under very spe- 
cific conditions. 6 Cape Verdean Creole may have been formed and progressively 
structured from the late fifteenth century over several subsequent centuries, but 
linguists remain divided on the genesis of this Portuguese-based Creole. 7 Ini- 
tially, relations between the two languages appear to have been less conflictual 
in Cape Verde than on the continent, where the Portuguese language came up 
against indigenous languages in situ and where Creole was used by both natives 
and settlers (reinois) without great prejudice until the nineteenth century (Veiga 
1997). Although Cape Verde was not concerned about the indigenato regime, from 
the nineteenth century on, education was just as effective a vector of lowering 
the Creole language with respect to the Portuguese “standard” language of au- 
thority and power. Consciousness of this tension, of a vertical relation encour- 
aged by the belief in the unequal value of languages, lasted into the collective 
memory, beyond the end of the colonial era. This sort of dualism and proximity 
between languages is less pronounced in the linguistic patrimony on the conti- 


nent. Today the Senegalese linguistic legacy has much more to do with West 
Africa’s triple heritage mentioned above. More generally, the complexity of a 
triple ascendency shaping modern Senegal has been notably studied for the pe- 
riod between the fifteenth and the nineteenth centuries by the Ecole de Dakar. 
Since the 1950s this historiographical movement has greatly revisited a Sene- 
gambian history highly warped by colonial officers who produced knowledge 
primarily useful for the governance of the colonies. Historians of Dakar focused 
their attention on Atlantic slave trade, the expansion of Islam, and the colonial 
conquest. 8 Besides, as significant as the European influence was on the coast 
of Senegal during the Atlantic slave trade, and then farther inland under the 
effective administration of the colony, the analysis of Arabic sources reveals an 
Islamization of Senegalese society greatly underestimated — indeed, completely 
ignored — by the “colonial library.” 9 Moreover, several vernacular languages were 
partially transcribed from the Arabic alphabet before they were transcribed into 
the Latin alphabet. 10 Studying linguistic legacies can bring methodological dif- 
ficulties to specialists, and one can establish a link between the language theory 
(Calvet 1979: 38) and historiography in Africa (Diouf 2000): both have been 
marked by persistent and severe ideology of hierarchy of cultures during the co- 
lonial era — linguistic as historical descriptions tended to form colonial relations, 
turning non-European alterity into inferiority — leading to serious ethical matters 
from the postcolonial period on, as scholars seek to avoid such a distorted per- 
ception yet are unable to move from their respective disciplinary methodology. 

A second important issue is to locate our subject in a geographic space, phys- 
ical as well as metaphorical, and point out in what circumstances the geohis- 
tory may or may not influence identities. Although distant by a three-hundred- 
mile sea space, Cape Verde and Senegal share the same area, a “West African 
finistere” — that is, Senegambia (Barry 1988) — that we intentionally extend west- 
ward in order to include the Atlantic islands. The term “Senegal” has been applied 
at various levels, as river, geographic region, or political entity. The mixed-race 
Senegalese priest David Boilat linked it to the Wolof words sunu gaal, meaning 
“our pirogue” (Boilat 1853: 199), while Theodore Monod and Raymond Mauny 
— in the French edition 11 of the Cronica da Guine (Gomes Earns de Azurara, 1453) — 
retained the word Qanaga, which would be related to Zanaga, the Berber tribe 
Sanhaja. However, according to the linguist Saliou Kandji, none of these as- 
sumptions are credible: the etymology of the toponym Senegal might come from 


the south Atlantic, past and present Alexis Diagne Thevenod 

Siin Ghaana, that is, the Siin province of Ghaana, dwelling place of the Senegal 
River Basin since the eleventh century (Kandji 2006). The arrival of the Europe- 
ans on the Senegambian coasts fundamentally altered the organization of the 
region by diverting the trade routes from the Sahara to the Atlantic and turn- 
ing the West African coastline into the main axis of acculturation (Magalhaes- 
Godinho 1969; Barry 1988). First used to name the westernmost point of the 
African continent reached by Portuguese explorers before 1450 (nowadays the 
peninsula of Cap-Vert in Senegal), the term Cabo Verde was adopted for the is- 
lands off the African coast when the Portuguese reached it around 1460. It is 
worth noting that locating ocean-surrounded territories 12 such as the Cape 
Verdean islands, both physically and metaphorically, is still a tricky issue. Thus 
the geographer Ilidio do Amaral came to describe the islands as follows: “By its 
geographical location and by its settlement, Cape Verde is an African state; by 
its geostrategic position, it is a crossroads of African, Mediterranean, and At- 
lantic influences, an anchorage of the lusofony, that is to say of the ‘latinidade,’ 
and more specifically, of Europe, within the Atlantic-center space” (1991: 22). 
Cape Verde is often referred as a key hub in the geopolitical conception of the 
Lusophony. The academic Antonio Berbem sees Cape Verde in a position — 
three hundred miles from the Senegalese coast and fifteen hundred miles from 
the Brazilian Nordeste — that is strategic both east-west and north-south, located 
on the maritime trajectory between Europe and South America and between the 
East Coast of United States and sub-Saharan Africa (Berbem 2004). Meanwhile, 
the former Portuguese prime minister Mario Soares highlights close ties of 
Cape Verdians with the United States through its greatest diaspora, along with 
Brazil as a powerful ally and fraternal country (Soares 2005). Besides, the idea 
of an international institute of Portuguese language (Instituto Internacional da 
Lingua Portuguesa, or iilp) was launched in 1989 in Sao Lufs de Maranhao, 
notably on the initiative of the Brazilian president Jose Sarney; the iilp was ef- 
fective ten years thereafter, with its headquarters in the Cape Verdian capital, 
Praia. The historical trajectory of Senegal linked to the Francophone world is 
just as singular: Leopold Sedar Senghor, passionately fond of French literature, 
was one of the architects of the Francophonie, while his successor as the head 
of state, Abdou Diouf (1981-2000), led the political action of the Francophonie 
as secretary-general of the organization for three consecutive four-year terms 
(2002-2014). With the meeting of the Fifteenth Francophone Summit (28-29 



November 2014), Senegal becomes the first African state to host for the second 
time a summit — the chief biennial event of the International Organization of 
the Francophonie (01 f) — in its capital, after the one held in Dakar in 1989. 

Does all that mean that Senegal or Cape Verde has a Francophone or Luso- 
phone particular affinity, that both countries share a vanguard position within 
one or another community of affects, and that their inclusion into the relevant 
cultural areas shaped by a shared language justify their very Francophone or Lu- 
sophone identity? Obviously, the answer depends on the acceptance that one 
gives to the Francophone or Lusophone notion. Ali and Alamin Mazrui noticed 
that we constantly refer to Francophone, English-speaking or Lusophone Af- 
rica, yet nobody refers to Anglophone Asia or French-speaking Asian countries, 
although those areas were colonized too. The authors understand it by “the de- 
gree and perhaps nature of the lingo-cultural dependence in the societies con- 
cerned” (1998: 6). However, in Emilienne Baneth-Nouailhetas’s view, categori- 
zations into “phonies” are as useful in terms of classification as they are wrong 
in terms of identifications; because they associate the common and the different, 
statements on purpose concerning linguistic policy and the reality of linguistic 
practices, divisions into “phonies” might be deceitful (2010: 76). Problems in 
“locating” Senegal and Cape Verde in contemporary geohistory boundaries — 
even floating boundaries, and this can be true for most African states — is partly 
linked with the very notion of cultural areas, 13 which itself is historically linked 
to a Western view of the world (Sabouret 2010). Theorist of cultural geography 
Paul Claval highlighted that the African world appears as a discrete area of civ- 
ilization mainly for those who are foreign to the continent (2000: 71), while the 
political scientist Dominique Darbon considers Africa a geographical reality 
rather than a “world” (2003: 1). Above all, it seems that academic sciences seek 
to reflect an African diversity along with its cultural relationship complex with 
dominant Western-language communities. The new paradigm brought by the 
establishment of language-based communities has led analysts either to insist 
on the interaction of historical trajectories of societies and cultures (Chevrier 
2008: 64), or to emphasize a relational cultural identity (Wolton 2006: 75), or 
else to think in terms of a postcolonial specific or relative space rather than a 
cultural area (Cahen 2007). In sum, language issues are the best way to “lose” 
Cape Verde and Senegal within the porosity of globalization. Nevertheless, a 
historical perspective on colonial linguistic legacies makes its complexity under- 


the south Atlantic, past and present Aiexis Diagne Thevenod 

Linguistic Alterity in Colonial Context 

Western School as a Tool for Linguistic and Social Exclusion 

A coincidence of history, in 1817 the first French school in the Senegalese city 
of Saint-Louis was established, and in the same year, the first official primary 
school opened in Cape Verde in the city of Praia, on Santiago Island. Occidental 
schools — Christian missions, and particularly official schools — played a fun- 
damental role in spreading European languages. Despite the aim of colonial 
administrators, who were mainly interested in improving colonial exploitation, 
schools would form precious auxiliaries into lower echelons of the colonial bu- 
reaucracy (Afigbo 1985) — Occidental education was ultimately creating an Afri- 
can elite likely to compete with the settlers’ privileges. But this was far from the 
case at the early stages of the colonial education. The first primary school in 
Praia seems to have worked with major deficiencies, 14 and the prospects for a 
Monitorial System 15 initiated by the French teacher Jean Dard in Senegal were 
soon curbed by the establishment of a colonial administration less tolerant to 
local cultures. Both Jean Dard and the metropolitan government — namely the 
Ministere de la Marine et des Colonies — agreed on the necessity to Christianize 
and “civilize” Africans, but early on, Dard was more pragmatic about the means 
to achieve the “mission,” keeping in mind the singular role of language in the 
main relations between Europeans and African, the trade in agricultural goods: 

If black people were in relation with real philanthropic Europeans, if they 
were called on to a peaceful, legitimate, and respectable agricultural trade, 
and if we bothered to teach them to read, write, and calculate in their own 
language, they could soon take place among civilized nations. (...) Al- 
though the language I profess [Wolof] is new for Europe, it is common in 
Senegambia (...) and it is the basis of teaching of those who intend to 
trade. (...) Whatever one may say, blacks should be educated in their mother 
language; otherwise, no sustainable settlement, no civilization. Indeed, how 
useful can be French or English words repeated by a young African, when he 
cannot understand what these words mean in his own language? (1826: 24, 

26, 37) 

Following the Monitorial System’s deliquescence in Senegal, education was en- 
trusted to the Church through the teaching of the Brothers of Ploermel in Saint- 
Louis, Goree, and then Dakar. From 1841 to 1903, primary education in Senegal 
turned into a quasi monopoly; French language was the only medium of instruc- 


tion, and Wolof and other indigenous languages were prohibited (Bouche 1975 : 
1:174). Secular education began when Faidherbe arrived at the head of the col- 
ony (1854-1861, 1863-1865); his main objective was to attract a Muslim popula- 
tion and convert them to European ideas. More original was the creation by the 
governor of the Ecole des Otages (School of Hostages) in Saint-Louis (1856- 
1971, 1892-1903), intended to educate the local chief’s sons. In teaching them 
French and instilling into them basic concepts of European civilization, Faid- 
herbe had a very specific purpose, as illustrated in the following extract from his 
correspondence with the minister, dated 18 January 1856: “I think we should 
have these hostages from all countries of the river. Thus, in the Cayor region, 
there is no one individual surrounding the Darnel [King] capable of serving as 
an intermediary between him and us. . . . They must learn our language for the 
convenience of our relations with the country” (quoted in Sow 2003-2004: 54). 

Colonial education in Cape Verde, too, has experienced irregularities. The 
anthropologist Manuel Brito-Semedo identified three distinct periods. Up to 
1817, no legislation suggests the existence of a public education in the colony. 
From 1817 to 1845, the educational system was introduced without serious 
monitoring from the metropole. Public education was regulated by the Royal 
Decree of 14 August 1845, which authorized the creation of new primary and 
secondary schools. A primary school was opened on the island of Brava in 1848, 
then transferred to Praia on the island of Santiago, following exactly the resi- 
dence of the governor. The first secondary school in Cape Verde was created in 
i860 in Praia but had a short existence due to the lack of teachers and students. 
The first secondary school to operate regularly was actually the Seminario-Liceu, 
which opened its doors six years later in Sao Nicolau. Its main purpose was to 
produce priests; however, it could also perform public functions. The Seminario- 
Liceu de Sao Nicolau played a major role in the formation of a Christian religious 
consciousness in Cape Verde. Following the 1910 proclamation of the Republic 
in Portugal and the separation of the churches and the state, the Seminario-Liceu 
was replaced by the Liceu Nacional de Cabo Verde in 1917, located in Mindelo. 
The only secular school in the archipelago up to i960, this national secondary 
school — known as Liceu Gil Eanes — formed the whole Cape Verdean elite of 
this time. 16 Cape Verde was somehow favored over the continental Portuguese 
colonies: up to 1875, the archipelago had more primary schools (45) than Guinea 
(6), Sao Tome e Principe (2), Angola (25), and Mozambique (8) combined (Brito- 
Semedo 2006: 122). In both Senegal and Cape Verde, colonial education partic- 


the south Atlantic, past and present Alexis Diagne Thevenod 

ipated to create a “national” class of elite, the product of a racial and cultural 
miscegenation. Up to 1903, European education was virtually applied only in the 
Four Communes, for a Christian population that was largely metis and “assimi- 
lated.” According to Denise Bouche, at the dawn of the twentieth century it was 
the second, if not the third or the fourth, generation to attend a French school 
(Bouche 1975: 1:425). 

Great Ideals, Restricted Applications 

The organization of the colonial education described briefly above turned to be 
inconsistent with the colonial ideologies developed under the Third Republic in 
France (1870-1940) and the Estado Novo in Portugal (1933-1974), both grounded 
on the need to educate — “civilize” — the colonized population in order to grant 
them full citizenship within their respective empire. Supposed to be the uni- 
versal key for the access to this citizenship, a means of democratic integration, 
imperial languages were in fact a highly exclusive medium, creating a de facto 
and de jure imbalance in the colonial relationship. Ali Mazrui opposed a French 
cultural arrogance (refusing to mix cultures in colonial schools and insisting on 
the supremacy of French civilization) and a British racial arrogance (insisting 
on the segregation of the races between schools but permitting the mixture of 
cultures in the curriculum), arguing that “the threat [of imperial European 
tongues over indigenous African languages] was particularly serious in those 
colonial powers of Latin expression (French, Portuguese, Italian, and Spanish) 
which had a strong preference for cultural assimilation in their language policies 
for the colonies” (1998: 14, 28). Flowever, African colonial historiography went 
beyond a tight dichotomy between an indirect rule applied in British empire and 
a direct rule applied in French empire. Several historians have demonstrated 
how aleatory these two systems were in practice, and according to Raymond 
Betts, “colonial policy was without clear, final objectives. More short-range pro- 
cess than well-defined system, it vaguely included notions of self-government in 
its British form, and of political integration in its French and Portuguese forms. 
Broadly poised between these policies of ‘differentiation’ and ‘identity,’ colonial 
administration of the inter-war era was described by its practitioners as neces- 
sarily empirical, an exercise in cultural and political accommodation” (1985: 
314). French rhetoric focused on Mission ciuilisatrice, and assimilation in its colo- 
nies first rose among geographical milieu before seducing a part of the political 
class and being elevated as an official imperial doctrine. At no point in modern 


history, noted Alice Conklin (1997: 1), did the French make more claims for their 
civilization than during the “new” imperialism of the Third Republic. The claim 
was still relatively contained in Leroy-Beaulieu’s work De la colonisation chez les 
peuples modernes (1874), in which he advocated that a task of initiation be estab- 
lished in Senegal by means of moral influence and intellectual leadership: “With- 
out pretending to assimilate us indigenous, which would be madness with the 
few European population we have, we must bring them closer to us by educa- 
tion, ideas, work, and legislation. (...) All that can be asked is to form to our 
morals and our ideas a certain nucleus of intelligent men, who then will spread 
around them our civilization throughout the country” (Leroy-Beaulieu 1882 [1874] : 
403). According to Raoul Girardet (2009 [1972]: 53), Leroy-Beaulieu was an 
economist faithful to the liberal school, but nonetheless imbued with an indus- 
trialism of Saint-Simonian origin. Nearly a decade later, the Republican Jules 
Ferry took up officially and more firmly this way, arguing that “the superior 
races have the right and the duty to civilize the inferior races.” 17 And in 1895, the 
French jurist Arthur Girault published what will remain a condensation of colo- 
nial ethics for many officials in the colonies — Principes de la colonisation et de legis- 
lation coloniale — in which he described assimilation as “an ideal that should lead 
to a union more and more intimate between colonial territory and metropolitan 
territory.” The author conceded that assimilation policy was greatly enhanced 
by the triumph of republican ideas (1904 [1895] : 54> 55)- 18 1° the meantime, the 
French language acquired a new dimension: inside France, the generalization 
of public education contributed to the foundation of French in the regions, im- 
planting more firmly a linguistic national unity; in the nascent empire, the 
French language proved to be an excellent tool of domination over the colonized 
population and the most effective way of extraterritorial expansion. A geopolit- 
ical and geolinguistical conception of the language emerged with the first oc- 
currence of the term Jrancophonie, in a work by the geographer Onesime Reclus, 
in 1880. 19 As for the Mission civilisatrice rhetoric, the termjrancophoniewas strongly 
marked in its origins by the ideal, the utopia: idyllic vision for those who antic- 
ipate it, nightmarish imposition to whom it should be applied (Parker 2010: 
237) . However, the chosen way of assimilation in the Four Communes 20 showed 
its limits: victim of its “generosity,” the colonial project had to establish legal 
subterfuges to avoid the political assimilation of the Originaires, these latter get- 
ting the citizen’s political rights without having the citizen’s civil rights (Coquery- 
Vidrovitch 2001). Instead of an effective spreading of the French language, and 

the south Atlantic, past and present Alexis Diagne Thevenod 

even under the associationist tendency of the interwar years, the colonial ad- 
ministration was content with a strategy of cultural and linguistic impregnation 
(Ndao 2000, 2011). If “thinking Francophone” (Sautman 2001: 120) somehow 
became possible from a geopolitical aspect after the end of the nineteenth cen- 
tury, the colonial Francophonie remained a myth on the eve on the Second World 
War (Michel 2000). 

One might notice among the promoters of French colonial expansion — 
notably after the defeat of the Franco-Prussian War followed by the amputation 
of Alsace and a part of Lorraine from its national territory — the fear of a lost 
grandeur (Girardet2009 [1972]: 74). Likewise, Portugal experienced a nostalgia 

I of the glorious centuries of discoveries marked by an intense claim of its so- 
called historical rights related to African territories. An empire “built upon the 
ruins of two earlier imperial constructions” (Clarence-Smith 1985: 1) in the Ori- 
ent, then in Brazil, the African possessions of Portugal were subject to intense 
negotiations with other colonial powers. From the Berlin Conference (1884- 
1885) to the Brussels Conference Act (1890), the aim was to convince people of 
the antecedence of the Portuguese presence in Africa and of the humanitarian 
and civilizational features of Portuguese conquests (Jeronimo 2010: 68). And 
the 1890 British Ultimatum was the source of the main feature of the Portuguese 
external policy until the 1970s: that is, the defense of its colonial heritage (Pinto 
2004: 12). The foundations of the Portuguese colonial ideology were laid down 
between 1928 and 1933, the period of consolidation of the Salazar dictator- 
ship. 21 Its aims did not differ significantly from the “colonial-republican” French 
ideology: to integrate the colonies into the mother country by “civilizing” the 
African population and ultimately turning them all into Portuguese citizens 
(Newitt 1981: 185). However, and beyond this shared utopia, in the 1950s the 
Salazar regime invented the singularity of a Portuguese empire devoid of racial 
tensions due to an alleged special ability among the Portuguese colonizers to 
adapt to tropical lands and peoples. I use the term “invented” to indicate that the 
Estado Novo reproduced — with the approval and cooperation of the author — 
a simplified and nationalist version of the lusotropicalism coined by Gilberto 
Freyre during the 1930s. 22 The concerns then about the culture and language of 
the archipelago focused notably on the degree of Europeanization of the Cape 
Verdean society. In the following excerpt, the governor of Cape Verde seems 
convinced of the great cultural proximity between “its” colony and what was 
perceived as the highest standard, the model of the lusitanian metropole: 


The Cape Verdean Creole is the work of the Portuguese heart, and without 
any obvious sign of intellectual inferiority, on the contrary, appears always 
prone to accept all intellectual and artistic manifestations it encounters. (...) 
Honestly, the problem of the expansion of the Portuguese language and civi- 
lization is not relevant in Cape Verde. Certainly the people use a dialect — the 
crioulo — but mostly Cape Verdeans understand Portuguese language, and 
they are understood. This dialect varies enough from island to island, but 
one feels as a backdrop the Portuguese language. Concerning the expansion 
of Portuguese civilization, there is nothing to refer. The Cape Verdean does 
not differ from the metropolitan. Its civilization is ours. 23 

Nearly three years later, in 1953, the judgment on Cape Verdean Creole was less 
favorable in Freyre’s Auentura e Rotina: the author described it as a “dialect which 
repels” him (Freyre 1953: 248). According to the Brazilian sociologist, the issue 
was a cultural invigoration through the use of Portuguese language among Cape 
Verdean population: “Given the cultural bastardization [incaracteriza^ao] reached 
by the Cape Verdean, the remedy for this situation seems to me a reinvigora- 
tion of European influence among its population, to the extent that it carries, in 
younger generations, attitudes even more European than the current ones; a 
more European behaviour” (1953: 250). Despite the fact that the indigenato sta- 
tus has never been applied in the archipelago — which marked a distinct separa- 
tion from the continent, where the assimilated population, the ciuilizados, never 
represented more than a very small percentage of the population — Cape Verde 
did not experience as tight a relation with its metropole as the Four Communes 
did with France. But as for French authorities, it was advantageous to the Portu- 
guese colonial project to put forward one of its colonies in relation to the others, 
and to use this distinction, rather than to accept a true integration that would 
have spread to the other colonies. The banner deployed during the visit of the 
Portuguese head of state in Praia — even in 1968 — was clear about it: “Cabo 
Verde, Provincia de Portugal, limiar do Ultramar.” 24 And to establish this dis- 
tinction, colonial languages contributed to a process of alienation, and then of 
cultural and linguistic reconstruction of colonized societies. 

Between Cultural Alienation and Linguistic (Re)Appropriation 

Two writers have forcefully pointed out the cultural alienation through the for- 
eign language. Frantz Fanon (1952), for whom to speak “is to be able to employ 

the south Atlantic, past and present Aiexis Diagne Thevenod 

a certain syntax, to possess the morphology of this or that language, but above 
all, it is about to assume a culture, to bear the weight of a civilization,” believed 
that all colonized people stands vis-a-vis the language of the civilizing nation, 
that is of the “mother” country’s culture. Albert Memmi (1957) brought to light, 
from a fine observation of the daily relation between colonizer and colonized in 
the Maghreb, the cultural yoke under which the latter population had to evolve: 
“The colonial bilingualism is neither a diglossia, where one popular idiom and 

I one purist language coexist and both belong to the same emotional universe, 
nor a simple multilingual wealth, which has an additional but relatively neutral 
tool; it is a linguistic drama.” Half a century after Kipling’s poem, would the 
European languages have become a kind of “black man’s burden”? 

Cape Verde experienced from the late nineteenth century, through a singular 
nativist movement, a first step toward the affirmation of a culture and language 
specific to the archipelago. It is hardly possible to claim that the work of the 
Cape Verdean nativist generation showed the premises of an independence or 
even demarcation from Lisbon: even denouncing the oppression of the Portu- 
guese colonialism over Cape Verdeans, nativist writers remained loyal to Portu- 
gal, viewed as the fatherland, “a Patria” (Duarte 1998). More interesting here is 
that some of them — Eugenio Tavares and Pedro Cardoso are the most frequently 
cited — used the Creole language in their poetry, valorizing publicly what was 
still named the Creole dialect of Cape Verde (Monteiro 2003). In 1924, Eugenio 
Tavares published a text titled lingua de pretos — literally, Language of Blacks — in 
which he promoted the use of his mother language in Cape Verde, concluding 
that “the Cape Verdian dialect can be spoken and can be written. For many rea- 
sons, and especially because it constitutes the documentation of a transforma- 
tion, of one of the fortunate transformations of the Portuguese language among 
colonial people.” 25 In this regard, the poet Gabriel Mariano noticed that, when 
writing in Portuguese language, the nativists’ generation only produced a “pho- 
tocopy” of Portuguese poets, whereas writing in Creole allowed the poet to iden- 
tify with his own land, with his very island or region. 26 Yet the Claridoso move- 
ment initiated by Manuel Lopes, Baltazar Lopes da Silva, and Jorge Barbosa in 
1936 with the first issue of the Claridade review, put poets’ feet more firmly into 
the mother soil and definitely contributed to building the cultural identity of 
the islands, the Caboverdianidade. “Social and telluric witness” and “the most 
innocent way to express [our] reality” (Manuel Lopes), “affirmation of the Cape 
Verdean nationality” (Gabriel Mariano), Claridade brought to a generation of 


elites the “craving to discover their [our] cultural identity” (Henrique Teixeira de 
Sousa). 27 Or, more precisely, the Cape Verdean elite, highly influenced by dom- 
inant models of Portuguese and Brazilian literature along with a certain univer- 
sal culture (many attended the Sao Nicolau Secondary School, and few of them 
went back and graduated from Portuguese universities), built the Caboverdiani- 
dade as a specific insular identity from its own experience. In this process, that 
the academic Francine Vieira saw as an identity strategy for the social ascent 
of a minority group (2005: 396), the search fora proper position between Africa 
and Europe — and the debate on the genesis of the Cape Verdean Creole is a part 
of it — has been constant. So the writer Manuel Ferreira came to affirm that Af- 
rica doesn’t really exist in Cape Verdean society and that “the cultural evolution 
is progressive in the meaning of creolization and will never been regressive in 
the meaning of the African recuperation.” 28 Significantly different has been the 
message of the agronomist and poet Amilcar Cabral, who in 1952 advocated for 
a transcendence of the resignation of the Claridosos, and later, as the famous 
independence leader, promoted the “reafricanization of consciousness.” 29 The 
use of languages was enclosed, until the end of the colonial era and even later, 
within a set of values based on the prejudice of the linguistic superiority of 
the Portuguese language over Creole. “We had a certain cult for Portuguese 
language” — said the writer Teobaldo Virginio — “which was a target to reach, 
the way of promotion,” 30 while Gabriel Mariano wondered publicly in 1965 why 
those in Cape Verde studied a dead language such as Latin rather than Creole, a 
living language. 31 And the anthropologist Luis Batalha, who conducted a con- 
cise study on the “Portuguese-Cape-Verdean elite,” clearly demonstrated how this 
group mingled — including linguistically — into the Portuguese culture. Under 
colonialism, their status encouraged their identification to an alleged racial su- 
periority camouflaged by an educational superiority. Bilingual, they have never 
been discriminated against while speaking Creole, unlike the majority of Cape 
Verdean population who did not sufficiently master the Portuguese language. 
Putting Portuguese identity above all, “being Cape Verdean and speaking Creole 
was a regional appreciation integrated within the overall framework of the Por- 
tuguese identity” (Batalha 2004: 198). 

If one can speak about one national culture and language in Cape Verde, a 
Senegalese counterpart of the Cab over dianidade could not emerge into the colo- 
nial Senegalese society: regarding its ethnic plurality and linguistic diversity, the 
reappropriation of a native culture had necessarily to overcome fragile national 


the south Atlantic, past and present Alexis Diagne Thevenod 

boundaries to reach a broader African ideal, a black universal. Following the 
; relative cultural pluralism shown among the Originaires, the model moved to- 
ward the ideology of the African nationalism, which found expression, from the 
1930s in Senegal, in the Negritude movement (Diouf 2000: 583). However, 
Negritude — although clearly reacting to assimilation ideology, possibly more 
than the Claridade movement did — emerged from European archetypes and 
used the very colonial language at the heart of its emancipation project. Within 
the logic of Leopold Sedar Senghor, the matter was to assimilate (French civili- 
zation) instead of being assimilated, and Senghor considered himself black and 
French, as “Afro-French” within the framework of the French imperial commu- 
nity. 32 Cultural and unitary affirmation of the black civilization found its sup- 
port in journals published in Paris by an “assimilated” elite from French Carib- 
bean and Africa. 33 Concerning the use of languages, Senghor first developed 
his argument on a culturalist basis, advocating for a greater attention to be given 
to the African languages in education; this was the phase of “loyalty” to the Af- 
rican languages and cultures (Ndao 2008: 9). On the edge of independence, his 
speech focused more on “bilingualism as solution.” 34 And following the in- 
dependence, Senghor — thenceforth president of the Senegalese republic — took 
the turn toward the French language as the official one for the state, the exclu- 
sive one in national education, and worked for the promotion of a Francophone 
community. As he wrote in his well-known paper “Le frangais langue de culture,” 
published in the journal Esprit in 1962, it was about maintaining and reinforcing 
the teaching of French language in Africa and erecting “La Francophonie, cet 
Humanisme integral.” 

The invention of a cultural and linguistic alterity has been a necessity in the 
colonial project in order to create a hierarchy to the benefit of the conquering 
culture. The process of dehumanization of the African — negation of his history, 
languages, and capacity of autonomous creation, a negation supported by a 
belief in racial inequality — made possible the creation of a colonial imaginary 
where “the inferiority of the Other consecrate the superiority of the Similar” 
(Henriques 1999-2000). The grammar of animality applied to the indigenous 
(the prevalence of the physical over the intellect) justified the domestication of 
the colonized (Mbembe 2000: 266-267). Conklin remarked that French impe- 
rial ideology identified civilization with “mastery.” “To be civilized” — says the 
author — “was to be free from specific forms of tyranny: the tyranny of the ele- 
ments over man, of disease over health, of instinct over reason, of ignorance over 


knowledge and of despotism over liberty” (1997: 5). Finally, one can say that this 
dialectic of liberation of the colonized through assimilation and under the con- 
trol of colonial rules has been reversed. In adapting oneself to the dominant 
language, the “assimilated” elite restored its own culture into the human civili- 
zation, not without totally overcoming the colonial complex “between Prospero 
and Caliban.” 35 Because colonization was “a permanent war against the re- 
sources of human freedom,” 36 the indigenous elite in Senegal, in Cape Verde, 
assumed the right to struggle against colonialism using the French or Portu- 
guese language as a powerful weapon, or, in Gabriel Mariano’s words, “the right 
to anticipate, literarily, the moment of liberation and destruction of the pressure 
factors” (Laban 1992: 298). 

Linguistic and Cultural Flux in Contemporary Cape Verde and Senegal 

The Construction o/Bi/Multilimjualism in Postcolonial States 

From the colonial background, one can better understand the complexity of lin- 
guistic issues in contemporary Cape Verdean and Senegalese states and their 
integration into the world system as autonomous entities, from i960 (Senegal) 
and 1975 (Cape Verde). Because of their specific linguistic situation, their respec- 
tive paths in term of language policy 37 diverged significantly. In the meantime, 
one can establish a relative symmetry, at the supranational level, concerning 
their inclusion in language-based communities — namely the 01 f and the cplp 
(Community of Portuguese Language Countries). 

In both countries, the colonial language became the official language at the 
independence. From these dates, Cape Verdean Creole (cvc) — the first lan- 
guage for almost all of the population — is the only national language beside the 
Portuguese official language, whereas in Senegal, French, the official language, 
faces thirty-eight local languages spoken on the territory; 38 six of them (Wolof, 
Pulaar, Serer, Jola, Maninka, and Soninke) have been officially recognized as 
national languages since 1971. The long-term Francophone population in Sene- 
gal was estimated at about 20 percent in 2002, 8 percent more than in the 1988 
census. 39 

Contemporary linguistic policy in Senegal is often evaluated and probably 
etter understood, following a presidential periodization: Senghor’s term (1960- 
1980); Diouf’s term (1981-2000); and Wade’s term (2000-2012). Despite his 
expressed intentions, Senghor’s policy in favor of national languages in educa- 
tion has been very modest. According to the academic and dissident Amady Ali 


the south Atlantic, past and present Aiexis Diagne Thevenod 

Dieng, Senghor never in practice promoted the national languages, which he 
did not consider scientific languages, and therefore at the same rank as the 
French language. 40 From the negre integral, product of a linguistic and cultural 
deep-rootedness advocated during colonialism, Senghor adapted Negritude with 
the concept of the homme integral ,” or “integral human, ” product of the universal 
civilization (Ndao 2008: 55). However, after a five-year period continuing a 
colonial elitist teaching based on the French language as mother tongue (1960- 
1965), Senegal chose an education in French language but with reference to 
other national languages (1965-1980). 41 This later policy has been greatly influ- 
enced by researches carried out by c la d — the Centre for Applied Linguistics of 
Dakar — ironically a French-inspired center that for a while benefited from tech- 
nical and financial support from France (Kazadi 1991: 94). Pierre Dumont, a 
linguist and the head of clad, was clear about the French language in Senegal: 
it would never be a language of national communication, thus it had to be con- 
sidered as a foreign language, vehicle of a foreign culture and civilization. 42 The 
Senghor option has been a very gradual transition toward the promotion of na- 
tional languages into education, preferring French language as a tool of scien- 
tific and technical development, best suited to inter-African and international 
relations. 43 His language policy oriented toward the Francophone world — and 
France — rather than toward the literacy into national languages of its citizens 
at some point received harsh criticism, as evidenced by a text published by the 
Union des Etudiants de Dakar in 1968 protesting “the defence and illustration of 
the French language” led by the Senegalese government. 44 Abdou Diouf’s man- 
date at the head of the state opened a new era with the convocation of the States 
General for Education and Training (Etats Generaux de l’Enseignement et de la 
Formation [egef], January 1981), recommending a bilingual education system 
more in line with the Senegalese sociolinguistic reality, and the establishment 
of a National Commission of Educational and Training Reform (cnref). By 
giving up the method of teaching French “pour parler frangais” elaborated by 
clad, the beginning of the Diouf era signaled “the most total disavowal for 
the extreme francization policy under Senghor” (Cisse 2005: 117). Altough — as 
Momar Coumba Diop and Mamadou Diouf have noted — Abdou Diouf dared to 
tackle the great taboo of the Senghor’s era, the problem of languages (Diop and 
Diouf 1990: 275), the state did not overcome major issues such as using national 
languages as medium of instruction, or bearing the costs of an ambitious re- 
form in the context of a sluggish economy. 45 The linguist Ibrahima Diallo shows 


how the chronic politicization of the public institutions, combined with a lack 
of genuine political will, led to serious blockages and finally to an almost status 
quo in national language policy through the decades. 46 However, and concern- 
ing French language, beyond the various obstacles to the implementation of the 
stated objectives since the independence, Moussa Daff notes a certain evolution 
in mentalities: if in the 1960s, 1970s, and even 1980s what mattered was the 
language proficiency, nowadays what is highlighted is language understand- 
ing. 47 On a more symbolic level, the linguistic decolonization of Senegal became 
famous through the 1990s initiative of Diouf’s government to rename major 
streets, schools, institutions, and public spaces whose names had any colonial 
connotations, mainly in Dakar, Saint-Louis, and Thies (Diallo 2010: 69-70). 
Under Wade’s presidency (2000-2012), the effective recognition of national lan- 
guages in Senegalese society took a step forward with the approval of the new 
constitution, which stipulated in its first article: “The official language of the 
Republic of Senegal is French. The national languages are Jola, Maninka, Pulaar, 
Serer, Soninke, Wolof, and any other national language that will be codified.” 48 
Since then, eight other languages have been codified and granted the national 
language status (Diallo 2010: 71). From 2004, Abdoulaye Wade supported the 
creation of an Academy for National Languages (asln) that was founded in 2007. 
Composed of senior and traditionalist researchers representing the fourteen na- 
tional languages, the asln advises the state in the implementation of the national 
language policy, works to make national languages a common heritage to all 
Senegalese in order to preserve the national unity amid the linguistic diversity, 
and support the development of national languages in the educational system. 49 

The most striking fact in term of linguistic flows into the postcolonial Sene- 
galese society is the ascent of Wolof as a national lingua franca. Currently ap- 
proximately 44 percent of Senegalese population are native speakers of Wolof, 
and the language is spoken and understood by over 80 percent of the population 
(Cisse 2005). This tendency began just after the French conquest in the late 
nineteenth century, concomitant with the development of commercial contacts 
and urbanization from Saint-Louis region to the peanut basin and the Senegal 
River drainage basin (O’Brien 1998; Dieng 2010), and might have even started 
as early as the thirteenth or fourteenth centuries, when Wolof benefited from 
a central position within the ethno-linguistic territory of northern Senegal cou- 
pled with a dominant political and military position. 50 Therefore, it is an urban 
Wolof, with its extensive borrowings from French, which has taken the lead in 

the south Atlantic, past and present Alexis Diagne Thevenod 

independent Senegal (O’Brien 1998: 33). This situation allowed the sociologist 
and philosopher Pierre Fougeyrollas — appointed as professor at the University 
of Dakar — to say in 1967: “We can already say that Wolof appears as the true 
national and popular language of Senegal. The crystallization of Senegal into 
a national community requires the fundamental encouragement of Wolof lan- 
guage. (...) There is now and especially two languages in Senegal: the one 
ascending from the masses to the power, which is the Wolof, and the other, 
going down the floors of the governmental building to meet these masses, 
which is the French. National and popular language on the one hand, borrowed 
official language on the other hand, that seems to me to be the new linguistic 
situation in Senegal.” 51 But Leopold Sedar Senghor — who, according to the po- 
litical scientist Donal Cruise O’Brien, had a particularly strong aversion to the 
cultural-political cause ofWolofization (1998: 40) — significantly restrained this 
postcolonial linguistic rebalancing. This was evidenced by disagreements be- 
tween the president and his opponents, based on orthographic issues but hid- 
ing a deeper political struggle on the role of Wolof and French in Senegalese 
society. 52 Just the opposite of Senghor in terms of speech and symbols, Wade 
was an ardent advocate ofWolofand its use among Senegalese population. During 
his presidency, statements made in Wolof by politicians, including Wade him- 
self, increased to the point that Wolof language seems nowadays to be in a good 
position — at the status level — to postulate seriously as official language, along 
with the French (Ndao 2011). 

The fact that the postcolonial linguistic landscape in Cape Verde is much more 
homogeneous than that in Senegal — where two related languages, Portuguese 
as the official language, and Cape Verdean Creole 53 as the national language, 
are present — did not necessarily result in a more harmonious and balanced 
linguistic coexistence than for its continental neighbor. The key issue since the 
independence of the archipelago has been the search for a true Portuguese-cvc 
bilingualism, whereas the linguistic situation was hitherto characterized by a 
diglossic situation inherited from the colonial period. Despite significant prog- 
ress in the transcript, standardization, and enhancement of cvc, the assertion 
that “in Cape Verde, the Creole language reigns but the Portuguese language 
governs” (Veiga 1997) is still hardly refutable. However, and maybe more here 
than in Senegal, the voice of the civil society — mainly linguists and writers — has 
been considered by the state. Linguistic policy in Senegal has for a while been 
heavily influenced, if not dictated, by presidential wishes, whereas linguistic pol- 


icy in Cape Verde established a more symbiotic link — and the common linguis- 
tic inheritage is relevant — with the linguistic reality of the Cape Verdean society. 
Two major events contributed to shaping contemporary linguistic policy in Cape 
Verde: the international linguistic conference ofMindelo in 1979 and the forum 
of bilingual literacy held in Praia in 1989. The former produced a phonetic- 
phonological-based alphabet of cvc, and the latter tried to conciliate this al- 
phabet and an etymological alphabet. But none of them forced itself on the pop- 
ulation, who continued to use an empirical alphabet (Fonseca 1998). In 1994, 
the Committee for Standardization of the Cape Verdean Language was formed, 
and it worked out a Unified Alphabet for the Cape Verdean writing system, the 
alupec. According to Manuel Veiga, the alupec emerged from the necessity 
to combine linguistic and sociolinguistic aspects in order to “on the one hand, 
functionalize and systematize the writing of Creole, and on the other hand, pro- 
pose an instrument that can be accepted, if not by the totality, at least by the 
majority of users” (1998: 96). In 1998, the alu pec was approved by the Council 
of Ministers of Cape Verde for a five-year trial period and was recognized as a 
viable system for writing the cvc in 2005. 54 Moreover, the current Cape Verdean 
constitution (2010), resuming the constitutional revision (1999) of the 1992 con- 
stitution, states the following concerning the use of languages in the territory: 

Article 7 (Role of the State): 

i) To preserve, to enhance, and to promote the Cape Verdean mother 
language and culture. 

Article 9 (Official Languages): 

Portuguese is the official language. 

The State promotes the conditions for the formalization of the Cape 
Verdean mother language, on par with the Portuguese language. 

All national citizens have the duty to know the official languages and 
the right to use them. 

Article 79 (Right to the Culture): 

3. To assure the right to the culture, rests specially with the State: 
f) To promote the defence, the valorization, and the development of 
the Cape Verdean mother language, and to encourage its use in 
written communication. 55 


Article 9 maintains an ambiguity — willful? — regarding the status of languages: 
indeed, how can the Portuguese be the official language while citizens are sup- 

the south Atlantic, past and present Alexis Diagne Thevenod 

posed to know and are granted the right to use the official languages, plural? 
Gilvan Muller, a linguist and the chair of the Instituto Internacional da Lingua 
Portuguesa (i i lp), notes that Cape Verde is seeking a way to manage its identity 
and institute bilingualism. 56 Although Portuguese can be considered a second 
language rather than a foreign language in Cape Verde (Cahen 2007), and one 
can speak about a linguistic continuum that includes the Portuguese language 
and the different variants of Creole language (Vasconcelos 2004: 160), a signifi- 
cant part of the population doesn’t properly speak Portuguese (Veiga 2000: 44). 
According to Marilena Pereira Lopes, chairwoman of the Brazilian Cultural 
Centre in Praia, who had a long working experience with youth and children in 
Cape Verde, a significant percentage of young Cape Verdians finish secondary 
school without fluency in the Portuguese language, without the ability to write 
an A4-sized page in Portuguese. 57 

Nevertheless, the threat of a new colonial type situation raised by the replace- 
ment of the colonial language by the lingua franca (Calvet 1979, Langue, corps , 
societe: 156), as it may occur in Senegal, 58 does not exist in Cape Verde, where 
linguistic issues lead to a more natural national cohesion. And the Cape Verdean 
poet Jose Luis Hopffer Almada, who saw a “capeverdeanization” of the Portu- 
guese language along with a “de-creolization” of the Cape Verdean language, 59 
noted that even though the issue is prickly, the trend is now irreversible, due 
both to the valiant love and affection that all Cape Verdians devote to their lingua 
pa'tria — as a greater symbol of identity and cultural diversity — to the insertion of 
the dignifying of the Cape Verdean language into the broader framework of the 
construction of an effective bilingualism between Cape Verdian communities 
from the islands and from the diaspora (Almada 2010: 42). 

Toward a “Postuiestern” World? 

It would be dishonest to see contemporary states as confined into tight linguis- 
tic boundaries — that is, French in Senegal and Portuguese in Cape Verde. Lan- 
guage configurations that emerged after independences created unprecedented 
possibilities of opening toward the world; meanwhile, self-determination has 
led to a rediscovery and a rereading of the African past — through Negritude for 
Senghor, through a reafricanization process for Cabral — for a time alienated by 
the colonial domination. The globalized postcolonial era did not evacuate the 
pangs of linguistic imperialism; rather, it pointed out and inevitably questioned 
this new paradigm, in both postcolonial African and postcolonial European 


societies. Not without misunderstandings: the anthropologist Lufs Batalha no- 
ticed that the Portuguese-Cape Verdean elite established in Portugal struggled 
during the colonial era for the recognition of their “Portugueseness” while they 
were above all (seen as) Cape Verdean, and they now struggle for their Cabouerd- 
ianidade while they are essentially Portuguese (2004: 195). Discourses emanat- 
ing from the Francophonie or the Lusophony, and the subsequent negative echo 
prevalent in public opinion, 60 affected and continues to affect mostly its periph- 
ery. Thus the ethnocentric Portuguese discourse on the vitality of the Portuguese 
language in Cape Verde ends up being irritating for Cape Verdeans, according to 
the writer Jose Vicente Lopes: “If Portuguese understand lusophony as a cultural 
imperialism, it is their problem, we do not concern about it here. (...) This is 
a paranoia of the Portuguese, and not of the Africans.” Germano Almeida, an- 
other Cape Verdean writer, states clearly, “To use the Portuguese language does 
not make me a Portuguese.” 61 

Through “linguistically-based constraints on the flow of information” (Maz- 
rui 1998: 82), Western languages have continued to exercise a key role for post- 
colonial African states in their relation to the world. However, former metropoles 
lost their exclusivity as dominant models, partly because of the globalization 
of cultural consumption flux: Brazilian telenouelas produced and exported by tv 
Globo have gained increasing influence in Cape Verdean homes over these past 
twenty years, 62 while the eyes of urban Senegalese audiences are riveted on Bol- 
lywood movies; the most-watched programs of the Senegalese audiovisual land- 
scape are Hello Bombay and India in Senegal . 63 

While the post-World War II globalization process enlarged the scope of 
cultural relations and opened new possibilities for linguistic flows, it crystal- 
lized simultaneously mentalities in a center/periphery logic inherited from the 
imperial-colonial world configuration of the nineteenth century. In this respect, 
the discourse pronounced by the French president Nicolas Sarkozy on 26 July 
2007 at the Cheikh-Anta Diop University of Dakar was relevant concerning how 
the dialectic of mastery elaborated by the French imperial ideology has been 
integrated into a contemporary rhetoric: “The tragedy of Africa,” said Sarkozy, 
“is that the African man has not fully entered into history. (...) In this uni- 
verse where nature commands everything, man escapes from the anguish of 
history that torments modern man, but man remains static in the middle of an 
unchanging order where everything seems to have been written beforehand. 
(...) The problem of Africa is to stop always repeating, harking back; it is to 

the south Atlantic, past and present Aiexis Diagne Thevenod 

free itself from the myth of the eternal return, to realize that golden age that 
Africa keeps regretting, will not come back, for the reason that it has never ex- 
isted.” 64 Yet, as the historian Jean-Pierre Chretien has pointed out, in the pro- 
cess of independences, colonized and colonizer were actors of an institutional 
change involving old and recent inheritances of the African experience, and cut- 
ting the umbilical cord to the metropole did not prevent continuities and trans- 
missions (2008: 72). And if what now exists is a cultural mixed race par excel- 
lence, as the Senegalese literary critic and diplomat Malchily Gassama argues, 
it is the “African man,” rooted in his African culture and mastering the culture 
of the other, especially the Western one (2008: 29). Language appropriation by 
Africans and the fluidity in its day-to-day evolution on the continent constitute 
the first evidence that Africans past and present contribute to the dynamic of 
globalization. It is worth remembering that, as the linguist and former chair- 
woman of the iilp Amalia Mingas reminds us, the Portuguese language in Lu- 
anda is different than the one in Lisbon; likewise, the French spoken in Dakar 
is not the same as the French spoken in Paris. 65 This means that the evolution 
and the interaction of languages are the basis of linguistic heritages. And the 
“recognition of an ecological structure of knowledge” (Muller 2011), one that is 
the opposite of the hierarchical structure devised by the colonial ideologies, may 
now be included in speeches but has yet to be fully applied in Cape Verde, in 
Senegal, and broadly in the Global South. 


1. Each decolonization is certainly not chronologically limited to an independence 
day. To go beyond the symbolic event means to understand the phenomenon as a process 
built before and after the independence. Breaks that one wishes to see or not see in colo- 
nial history are often poorly thought out: key issues are omitted, leading inevitably to 
unrestrained answers. The anthropologist Marc-Henri Piault, in the title of the book he 
edited — La colonisation: Rupture ou parenthese — can conclude neither “rupture” nor “paren- 
thesis.” Likewise, the historian Frederick Cooper, in his Colonialism in Question, specifies: 
“One is not faced with a stark choice between a light-switch view of decolonization — 
once independence declared, the polity became ‘African’ — and a continuity approach 
(i.e., colonialism never really ended), but one can look at what in the course of struggle 
before and after that moment could or could not be reimagined or reconfigured, what 
structural constraints persisted, what new forms of political and economic power im- 
pinged on ex-colonial states, and how people in the middle of colonial authority system 
restructured their ties within and outside of a national political space” (2005: 19-20). 


2. All quotes in this text that were originally in French or Portuguese have been trans- 
lated by the author. 

3. The French version of his text says indigence lincjuistique, which reflects better the 
idea of destitution in contrast with a linguistic wealth or diversity (Mbembe 2001: 9). 

4. Such interference into another discipline can lead to assumptions hardly accept- 
able for specialists of the referred field. It is thus useful to fit our subject to our discipline 
and that of the others, as Michel Cahen (2007) did when denying the existence of a Luso- 
phone culture based on the unique fact of a common language: the author introduced 
himself as a historian and not as a linguist or a literature specialist. 

5. This is particularly striking concerning Portuguese colonial historiography. Until 
the Carnation Revolution (25 April 1974) — that is, for nearly a century — research on Por- 
tuguese colonialism in Africa has been mainly undertaken by English-speaking scholars. 
This can be explained by the Portuguese semiperipheral condition in the modern capital- 
ist world system since the seventeenth century (Santos 2002), reinforced by the fact that 
the intellectual and repressive climate of the Estado Novo (1933-1974) — initiated by the 
28 May 1926 nationalist and antiparliamentary coup d’etat — made impossible the devel- 
opment of any serious Portuguese historiography of both metropolitan and overseas 
Portugal (Chabal 2002: 31). 

6. The question of the discovery of the archipelago is a debate (Lima 2007). Although 
African fishermen from the continental coast seem to have visited islands before (Wolof, 
Serer, Lebu), it is generally acknowledged that Cape Verde was free of occupation when 
discovered by the Portuguese between 1460 and 1462. First established under an agro- 
esclavagist system, Cape Verde turned soon to the transatlantic slave trade (which peaked 
in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but continued until the nineteenth century); 
the islands were a depository for slaves being shipped to Brazil, the Caribbean, and Cen- 
tral America. Meanwhile, Cape Verdean society emerged progressively from a mix of 
Europeans settlers (Portuguese, Spaniards, and Italians) and enslaved Africans from the 
Guinea Coast (Wolof, Mandinka, Fula, Bidyogo, Papel, and Balanta people), creating a 
specific Creole culture. See Carreira 1972, 1977; Andrade 1996; Cardoso 1998. 

7. Specialists are mainly divided on the preponderance of European or African ele- 
ments in the formation of Cape Verdean Creole. See relevant chapters in Carreira 1982; 
Quint 2000; Veiga 2000. 

8. This approach was initiated by Abdoulaye Ly with his work on the Company 
of Senegal (1958), and has been continued by historians such as Boubacar Barry and 
Abdoulaye Bathily. The “second founder” perspective on the movement is the perspec- 
tive of Cheikh Anta Diop in Nations Negres et Culture (1954). See Ibrahima Thioub, “L’ecole 
de Dakar et la production d’une ecriture academique de l’histoire,” in Diop 2002: 


the south Atlantic, past and present Alexis Diagne Thevenod 

9. Mamadou Diouf mentions the researches of Rawane Mbaye, Souleymane Bachir 
Diagne, and Ousmane Kane, whose translations and historic commentaries contributed 
to the opening of knowledge on Senegal history from the Islamic viewpoint. See Diouf 
2000: 369. 

10. This was the case ofWolof (Wolofal) and Pulaar (Ajami). See Cisse 2006. 

11. Gomes Eanes de Zurara, Chronique de Guinee, preface et traduction de Leon Bour- 
don (Dakar: IFAN, i960). 

12. Hence the difficulty for Cape Verdeans trying to define themselves to the other. 
This is relevant on the islands — “Are we African or not?” or “Are we fundamentally hy- 
brid European-African?” (Andrade 1996) — and abroad, in the United States, where the 
identity question is “Are we black or white?” (Fisher and Model 2012). For example, it is 
striking that in the eight-volume General History 0/ Africa edited by UNESCO, Cape Verde 
is very slightly mentioned here and there, and that the maps, even the ones dedicated to 
West Africa, rarely include this country. The dichotomous aspect of the nation continues, 
since it is reflected in the title of a recent valuable collective work on postcolonial Cape 
Verde: Suzano Costa and Cristina Sarmernto, eds., Entre Africa e a Europa: Nagao, Estado e 
Democracia em Cabo Verde (Coimbra: Edigoes Almedina, 2013). 

13. One should point out here that the notion of “cultural areas” distinguishes itself 
from that of “area studies”: the former is based on a geohistoric approach of a specific 
whole, whereas the latter builds the object a priori and follows pre-established catego- 
ries (Compagnon 2010: 2). According to the professor of French literature Anne Berger, 
area studies, in producing regional divisions, invented and acted on its subject while also 
studying it (2006: 13). A French, and more generally Francophone, understanding of cul- 
tural areas has been notably characterized by Fernand Braudel’s work, who thought 
about cultural and civilizational facts over the long term: “A cultural area is, in anthropol- 
ogists language, a space into which is found dominant the association of certain cultural 
features (...). The fixity of spaces firmly occupied and of boundaries that confine them 
does not exclude the permeability of these boundaries, facing the multiple travels of cul- 
tural goods that constantly cross them” (Braudel 1993 [1963]: 43, 45). 

14. Elias Alfama Moniz, in his work on colonial education in Cape Verde, demon- 
strates the magnitude of the failure of this first school: in five years (1884-1889), not even 
one student had completed his studies (2007: 8). 

15. Ecole Mutuelle de Saint Louis (1816-1841). Also known as “mutual education,” 
this method was supposed to allow one teacher to train many students at the same time, 
the more advanced students giving lessons to the others. 

16. See Batalha 2004; Moniz 2007; Ramos 2011. 

17. See Paul Robiquet, ed., Discours et opinions de Jules Ferry, vol. 5 (Paris: A. Colin, 



18. The related evolution, between the metropole and the colony, to a quite theoreti- 
cal and imaginary degree, persuaded some scholars to give a name to this hybrid figure: 
the Colonial Republic. See works of the collective Achac, namely N. Bancel, P. Blanchard, 
and F. Verges, eds., La Republique coloniale: Essai sur une utopie (Paris: Albin Michel, 2003), 
and N. Bancel, P. Blanchard, and S. Lemaire, eds., La jracture coloniale: La societejran^aise au 
prisme des heritages coloniaux (Paris: La Decouverte, 2005). 

19. Onesime Reclus, France, Algerie et colonies (Paris: Hachette, 1886 [1880]), 282. 

20. Saint-Louis and Goree (1872), Rufisque (1880), and Dakar (1887) were placed 
under the same municipal laws as those in France. Its inhabitants were named Origi- 
nates and received specific rights within the French colonial empire. For example, Saint- 
Louis and Goree inhabitants were granted the rights of French citizens as early as 1833, 
and in 1848 Senegal gained a seat in the Chamber of the Deputies in Paris. But the Four 
Communes was more than a model of colonial assimilation; it also proved that “plural- 
ism and native distinction were at the heart of the colonial project.” As Diouf illustrated, 
Governor Faidherbe combined Islam and colonial modernity, French and Arab languages, 
which was translated in public space by a Wolof tongue inflected by Arabic and French 
tones. See Conklin 1997; Diouf 2000; Coquery-Vidrovitch 2001. 

21. The Codigo do Trabalho Indigena was promulgated in 1929, the Acto Colonial in 
1930, and 1933 saw the adoption of the new Portuguese constitution, the Carta Organica, 
and the Administrative Overseas Reform Act. The Portuguese Colonial Act was repealed 
in 1950 when the colonies were declared “Overseas Provinces of Portugal,” and the 1961 
reforms abolished the indigenato status. See Newitt 1981. 

22. The very term “lusotropical” appeared actually quite late in Freyre’s work (its first 
occurrence was during a conference in Goa in November 1951), but the ideology without 
the term was present in his Casa Grande e Senzala (1933) and was already well established 
in his 0 Mundo que 0 Portugues Criou (1940). Freyre used the term “to describe sociologi- 
cally the cultural complex marked by the presence in warm countries, not the Portuguese 
man with ethnic value but rather the culture, mainly from Portuguese roots, which men 
ethnically different but sociologically similar were the holders, the deformers and the 
re-creators” (Freyre 1961: 57). To defend its colonial policy to international opinion, the 
theory rehabilitated by the Salazar propaganda, or neolusotropicalism (Cahen), removed 
the less acceptable ideas such as the importance of biological and cultural miscegena- 
tion or the Arab and African heritages among Portuguese people, to retain the notion 
that Portuguese colonization was a natural process favorable to all. See Freyre 1940, 1961; 
Castelo 1999, 2008, 2011; Cahen 2010; Almeida 2008. 

23. Arquivo Historico Ultramarino (Lisbon) — Relatorios da Inspecgao Superior da 
Administra^ao Ultramarina, Carlos Alves Ro^adas (Governador da Provincia de Cabo 
Verde), Relatorio do Ano 1950, 2:432, 2:443. 


the south Atlantic, past and present Alexis Diagne Thevenod 

24. “Cape Verde, Portugal’s Province, threshold of overseas.” A picture of this scene, 
as well as many others showing the journey into the colonial possessions of the Portu- 
guese head of state Americo Thomaz, can be seen in Boletim Geral do Ultramar, Visita do 
Chefe do Estado Almirante Americo Thomaz as provincias da Guine' e de Cabo Verde (Lisbon: Agen- 
cia-geral do Ultramar, 1968). 

25. Eugenio Tavares, “Lingua de pretos,” in 0 Manduco: Orgao defensor dos interesses da 
Colonia 1, no. 11, 1924. 

26. Gabriel Mariano (Sintra: 28 July 1984) in Michel Laban, Cabo Verde: Encontro com 
escritores (Porto: funda^ao Eng. Antonio de Almeida, 1992), 1:326. 

27. Manuel Lopes (Lisbon: July 1984; February 1985), Gabriel Mariano (Sintra: 28 
July 1984), Henrique Teixeira de Sousa (Santo Amaro de Oeiras: 22 July 1984) in Laban 
1992: 84, 320, 167. 

28. Manuel Ferreira (Linda-a-Velha: 17-18 July 1984) in Laban 1992: 113. 

29. Amilcar Cabral, “Apontamentos sobre Poesia Caboverdiana,” Cape Verde: Boletim 
de Propaganda e In/ormafdo, no. 28, 1 January 1952, and “Liberation nationale et culture,” 
Syracuse University, 2 February 1970, in Cabral 1975: 1:30, 1:324. 

30. Teobaldo Virginio (Boston: April 1987) in Laban 1992: 283). 

31. During a lecture held in Assomada (Santiago Island) in 1965, on the topic “Creole 
language and the teaching of Portuguese language.” Gabriel Mariano (Sintra: 28 July 
1984) in Laban 1992: 339. 

32. Leopold Sedar Senghor, “Le probleme culturel en AOF,” Conference faite a la 
Chambre de Commerce de Dakar pour le Foyer France-Senegal, 10 September 1937; “Vues 
sur 1 ’Afrique noire ou assimiler, non etre assimiles,” 1945, in Senghor 1964: n-21, 39-69. 

33. La Reuue du Monde Noir (1931) aspired to “give to the intellectual elite of the Black 
race and to the friends of Blacks, an organ where to publish their artistic, literary, and 
scientific works.” In 1935, Aime Cesaire first defined Negri tude in L’Etudiant Noir, a less 
politically oriented journal than Legitime Defense, a Marxist-inspired manifesto published 
in 1932. Later, Alioune Diop founded Presence Africaine, whose aim was to “define the Afri- 
can originality and accelerate its integration into the modern world.” See Janet G. Var- 
iant, Black, French, and African: A Life of Leopold Se'dar Senghor (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Uni- 
versity Press, 1990). Ethiopiques — Reuue negro-africaine de litterature et de philosophie (Dakar); 
all issues (from 1975) are available at For a critical approach, 
see Marcien Towa, Leopold Se'dar Senghor: Negritude ou Servitude? (Yaounde: Editions CLE, 
1971). Stanislas Adotevi, Negritude et Necrologues (Paris: Union Generale d’Editions, 1972). 
Mongo Beti and Odile Tobner, eds., Peuple Noirs, Peuples Africains: Reuue des radicaux noirs de 
languejrangaise (1978-1991); all issues available at 

34. Leopold Sedar Senghor, “Le probleme des langues vernaculaires ou le bilinguisme 
comme solution,” Ajrique Nouuelle, January 3, 1958. 



35. See Boaventura de Sousa Santos, “Between Prospero and Caliban: Colonialism, 
Post-colonialism, and Inter-identity,” Luso-Brazilian Review 39, no. 2, 9-43. 

36. “Problemes d’enseignement en Afrique Noire” (editorial notes), Presence Ajficaine, 
no. 6, February-March 1956, 56-57. 

37. The linguist Robert Chaudenson discerns three levels of intervention in the field 
of language: language “policy,” including major decisions at a national or supranational 
scale; language “planning,” which concerns the terms and deadlines of political goals; 
and language “management,” which is the implementation of the language planning. 
“Language policy” is used here in its broader sense, related to any political language in- 
tervention. Furthermore, Chaudenson distinguishes between the status (related to insti- 
tutions, functions, and representations) and the corpus (concerning the very linguistic 
practices) of the language. 

See Chaudenson, 1989: Vers une revolution francophone? (Paris: L’FIarmattan, 1989), and 
Chaudenson, ed., La jrancophonie: Representations, realites, perspectiues (Paris: L’Harmattan, 


38. M. Paul Lewis, ed., Ethnolocjue: Languages o/the World, 16th ed. (Dallas: SIL Inter- 
national, 2009), Mamadou Cisse 
(Cheikh Anta Diop University) argues that about twenty language groups can be seri- 
ously taken into consideration (Cisse 2005: 101). 

39. Observatoire demographique et statistique de l’espace francophone (ODSEF), 
Quebec, September 2010. See Niang Camara 2010. 

40. Interview with the author, Dakar, 17 June 2010. 

41. This is the periodization chosen by Moussa Daff (1998). Others insist instead on 
1960-1980, a period marked by a broader continuity with the colonial linguistic policy, 
where French language kept its privileged status despite the attempt to introduce na- 
tional languages in formal education (Ka 1993; Cisse 2005). 

42. Pierre Dumont, Politique linguistique et enseignement au Senegal, CLAD no. 70 (Dakar, 
1977), 4, 10. Launched in 1963, the CLAD was originally created to improve French teach- 
ing in Senegal, adapting the pedagogy to local sociocultural realities. Along with the 
IFAN (Institut Frangais d Afrique Noire — 1936, renamed Institut Fondamental d Afrique 
Noire / African Institute of Basic Research in 1966), the CLAD provided a wide range of 
scientific data on national languages contributing to develop standard and official writ- 
ten codes. 

43. See Leopold Sedar Senghor, “L’ enseignement du frangais,” Allocution en reponse 
au discours d’usage de M. Demba Diouf, Dakar, 15 July 1974 (Senghor 1977: 515-524) 
and “Le frangais et les langues africaines,” Preface a la these de doctorat d’Etat de Pierre 
Dumont, titled Les relations entre le jranfais et les lancjues africaines du Senegal, Editions Kar- 
thalaetACCT, 1983 (Senghor 1993: 238-253). 

the south Atlantic, past and present Alexis Diagne Thevenod 

44. Memorandum sur I’uniuersite de Dakar, published by the UED in 1968, cited in Calvet 

45. For matters raised by the EGEF and CNREF, see Ka 1993: 276-290; Cisse 2005: 

46. For example, the two main departments, DAEB (Directorate for Literacy and 
Basic Education) and DPLN (Directorate for the Promotion of National Languages), have 
been renamed and assigned to different ministries several times, in almost every govern- 
ment reshuffling, causing regularly changes in their missions and their responsibilities. 
See Diallo 2010: chap. 5. 

47. Interview with the author, Cheikh Anta Diop University, Dakar, 16 June 2010. 

48. Constitution de la Republique du Senegal du 22 januier 2001, 
pdf/Constitution.pdf (accessed September 2012). 

49. Statuts de I’Academie Senegalaise des Langues Nationales (ASLN), 24 July 2007. Its pre- 
amble notes that “it is proved that no country in the world has grown in a foreign lan- 
guage.” Furthermore, the report of the ASLN’s chairman specify that the ASLN does not 
concern itself with certain languages in use in Senegal such as French (official language), 
Arabic, Bambara, or Portuguese Creole, which are not considered national languages. 
ASLN, Rapport introductif du President de I’Academie, Dakar, 18 July 2009. Documents are 
available at 

50. As mentioned by Fiona McLaughlin (2008). From 1880 onward and the building 
of the Dakar-Niger Railway by the French in order to transport peanuts to the coast, 
Wolof circulated as a urban and commercial lingua franca as new cities grew up on the 
railway lines. According to Amady Ali Dieng, such an early spread of Wolof language 
in Senegal avoided a situation of creolization, or pidgin, as happened for example in Cote 
d’Ivoire (interview with the author, 17 June 2010). 

51. Pierre Fougeyrollas, L’enseignement du jfrangais au service de la nation senegalaise, Con- 
ference du 14 avril 1967 / prononcee devant tous les inspecteurs d’enseignement primaire 
du Senegal dans le cadre des deux journees d’information organisees par le CLAD, p. 2. 

52. In 1976, Cheikh Anta Diop — a native speaker of Wolof and a linguist — had to 
change the name of the Wolof-language journal Siggi (meaning “head up”) of his politi- 
cal party, Rassemblement National Democratique (RND), because of Senghor’s objec- 
tion to the orthography of the term, which he claimed to be written “Sigi”; in the end the 
journal was named Taxaiv, “stand up. ” The film director Ousmane Sembene, who launched, 
along with the linguist Pathe Diagne, the Wolof-language periodical Kaddu (“words”), 
had a similar unfortunate experience with his movie Ceddo (“pagan warrior”) in 1977: the 
title was censured by the state for not being spelled Cedo. See Firinneni Nf Chreacham in 
discussion with Sembene Ousmane, “If I Were a Woman, I’d Never Marry an African,” 
Ajrican Affairs 91, no. 363, April 1992, 241-247; Cisse 2005: hi, 115; Diallo 2010: 61. 



53. Several Cape Verdean Creoles evolved on each island of the archipelago and they 
are generally sorted into two main groups, the Barlavento Creole (from the windward 
islands to the north), spoken by about 35 percent of the population, and the Sotavento 
Creole (from the leeward islands to the south), spoken by about 65 percent of the popu- 
lation (Ernesto Pardal, “Lfnguas de Cabo Verde,” in Cristovao 2005). But overall, accord- 
ing to Elisa Silva Andrade (2002: 265), the archipelago is characterized by a relatively 
homogeneous Creole culture, with widely shared traditions and a common linguistic 

54. Decreto-Lei no. 67/98, 31 December 1998 (Boletim Oficial no. 48, 5th supple- 
ment), and Resolugao no. 48/2005, 14 November 2005 (Boletim Oficial no. 46). Texts 
available at 

55. Constitute) da Republica de Cabo Verde, 2a Revisao Ordinaria, 2010, Boletim Oficial — 
Suplemento, I Serie, no. 17, 3 May 2010. 

56. Gilvan Muller, “A lingua e de quern se apropria dela e gere,” A Semana, 4 June 
2011, http://www.asemana.publ. cv/spip.php?article64922&ak=i (accessed September 

57. Interview with the author, Praia, April 2010. 

58. Louis-Jean Calvet used the term “tangled diglossies” (diglossies enchassees) to de- 
scribe situations where several statuses of languages emerge on a given territory, as oc- 
curred in postcolonial Senegal with French, Wolof, and other African languages (Calvet 

59. Jose Luis Hopffer C. Almada, Numero especial da reuista Pre-Textos: IV Mesa-Redonda 
Ajro-Luso-Brasileira, Palacio da Assembleia Nacional (Praia), 10-17 J une : 994 > 37—39- 

60. On the one hand, political discourses of the CPLP and the OIF have their own 
logic, governed by a diplomatic language that uses euphemism to hide the most striking 
tensions. On the other hand, the media coverage, following the logic of a structural se- 
mantics, confines Francophonie and Lusophony to recurrent specific issues — such as 
the “good health” of the French or Portuguese languages in the world or the merits of the 
Francophone/Lusophone policies toward former colonies. For this latter, Francophonie 
or Lusophony are unconsciously perceived — including by the media “from the south” — 
as a one-way tool: from France, or from Portugal, to the world. 

61. Interviews conducted by Fernando Barbosa Rodrigues and presented in the mas- 
ter’s thesis titled “Politica da lingua no Cabo Verde pos-colonial: Um desafio a con- 
strugao da lusofonia” (Lisbon: Departamento de Antropologia Social — Instituto Supe- 
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the south Atlantic, past and present Alexis Diagne Thevenod — bem-amadas-novelas 
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alexis diagne thevenod is a PhD candidate at Paris-Sorbonne University in con- 
temporary history. His research interests are related to language-based communities 
(cplp, Commonwealth, and Francophonie) in West Africa, with a particular focus on 
the passage from the colonial to the postcolonial. Forthcoming articIes:“Heritages lin- 
guistiques au prisme de Phistoire: de la glottophagie coloniale aux ‘phonies’ postcolo- 
niales” (laboratoire Langage, Litterature et Societe, Universite de Savoie); “L’E tat colonial 
face a l’alterite linguistique au Cap-Vert et au Senegal” (O Estado Colonial: Genero ou 
Sub-especie?, ceaup). He maybe reached at alexisdiagnethevenod(a) 


Germans and the South Atlantic 

Political, Economic, and Military Aspects 
in Historical Perspective, 1507-1915 


abstract: Early sixteenth-century German geographers and mercenaries were well 
aware of the European economic and military expansion on both sides of the South 
Atlantic. The first part of this article traces the German knowledge production 
about this region based on maps and published eyewitness accounts. German visi- 
tors, whether for military, economic, or research purposes, were early on most at- 
tracted to the South American shores; southern Africa and the coast of Angola 
proved to be less hospitable. The following parts of this article outline the German 
attempts to settle permanently in the areas bordering the South Atlantic and to 
gain economic and political influence, culminating in the founding of the colony 
"German South West Africa" in 1884-1885. The final part shows how political aspira- 
tions and illusions of Germans in the region and the government in Berlin came to 
nothing with the outbreak of the First World War and the surrender of German 
colonial troops in July 1915. 

keywords: German history, South Atlantic, colonialism 

This article analyzes German political and economic aspirations and factual ties 
with the regions bordering the South Atlantic. The fact that German history 
cannot be confined within the borders of the European nation-state is now well 
established among historians. Already decades ago, James Sheehan pointed out 
that by stopping to assume “that Germany must mean Bismarck’s Germany, we 
can see that German history is made up of a more complex and much richer set 
of political, social, economic, and cultural developments.” The “colonial turn” 
in German historiography has deepened this understanding. And even more 
can be learned from transnational aspects, from shared or “entangled histories” 
of peoples, nations, or regions. The transnational character of many commer- 



rial undertakings has made economic history a forerunner of an entangled, re- 
gional history ever since. 1 In the German context, migration history and its trans- 
oceanic dimensions have been a focal point of research, often with a specific 
(North) Atlantic dimension. 2 

This article, however, analyzes the South Atlantic in its relations to Ger- 
man history and Germans as part of the history of the South Atlantic region. In 
the following sections “South Atlantic” history is a history of the lands around 
the sea in relation to the sea itself . 3 1 focus my analysis on Germans crossing the 
South Atlantic to reach the shores of five different countries (which are at the 
same time historically interconnected entities, as we will see) : Brazil, Argentina, 
South Africa, German South-West Africa (gswa), and Angola. They did not al- 
ways stay close to the port cities where they once arrived. Thus places are in- 
cluded here at times that are beyond the South Atlantic shoreline. The area 
under scrutiny here is thus defined geopolitically rather than geographically. 

Even though it has been stated — rightfully or not — that “the South Atlan- 
tic .. . remains marginal both geopolitically and academically,” 4 the impor- 
tance of this region for the understanding of German history should be under- 
lined. For example, the rise of Germany’s economic power is clearly visible from 
the growing exports to the South Atlantic markets. Furthermore, the Germans 
are of importance too for a better analysis of the history of the South Atlantic 
region. Three facets will be discussed in the following sections: first, the con- 
siderable German immigration to countries such as Brazil, Argentine, and South 
Africa; second, the colonial aspiration that were realized in 1884 with the estab- 
lishing of the colony of German South-West Africa; and third, German efforts 
to enlarge the colonial possessions by incorporating Portuguese Angola or parts 
of it. Portugal had been the master of a “South Atlantic empire” 5 for centuries, 
and some colonial enthusiast in Germany envisaged the re-creation of such an 
empire; this time under German lordship, spanning the sea from Porto Alegre 
to Liideritzbucht and Benguela. 

In this article I will examine, first, the notions of sixteenth-century Germans 
of the South Atlantic as an essentially Portuguese area of influence. The follow- 
ing four sections will analyze political, economic, and military aspects of Ger- 
man undertakings on both sides of the South Atlantic; the last section details the 
German political and military isolation during the First World War that resulted 
in Germany’s defeat in this region within less than one year. 



Mapping the Portuguese South Atlantic 

The Portuguese participation in the “discovery” of and subsequent claims to 
parts of South America and southern Africa became soon known in German 
regions; notwithstanding any attempts to keep the discoveries secret. In 1507, 
the German mapmaker Martin Waldseemiiller (apx. 1475-1520) documented 
on his famous world map Universalis cosmographia the spheres of influences as 
agreed between Spain and Portugal in the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494. 6 The 
Spanish and Portuguese sides of the Line of Demarcation across South America 
were indicated by the respective flags. Thus off the coast of present-day Brazil, 
Waldseemiiller had placed a ship sailing under the Portuguese coat of arms. The 
southernmost tip of South America is adorned with the Portuguese flag, and so 
is the coast of Africa, from the Gulf of Guinea via the Cape of Good Hope up to 
the Antropophagi etiopes north of Monsanbiqui. Five padroes were depicted along 
Africa’s southwestern coast. 7 As the European symbols of authority indicate, 
and considering the importance of Waldseemuller’s map for Germans, then, the 
South Atlantic was essentially Portuguese. 

In the early centuries of the European expansion, German principalities were 
evidently “not party to the competition for the Americas.” 8 Nevertheless, there 
was a considerable interest in Germany in the ongoing extension of knowledge 
about the New World and Africa. German geographers were among those who 
produced valuable cartographic and geographic materials on South America. 9 
Waldseemiiller’s map, for example, is, despite limited geographic knowledge, 
“surprisingly proportional.” 10 He included the information provided by Amer- 
igo Vespucci (apx. 1452-1512) in his Mundus Nouus (1502) and other travel ac- 
counts, which contained information about Brazil’s coastline and which was 
widely published and read in German lands. Later generations of cartographers 
continued to rely on this material. 

The famous Cosmographia by the cosmographer Sebastian Munster (1489- 
1552), one of the most popular German books of his time, shows the influence 
of Waldseemiiller. Munster explained to his readers: “One travels beyond His- 
pania [which included “Portugall”] toward the new island Americam/Spagnola/ 
Jucatanam and so forth.” 11 Beginning with the first edition of the Cosmographia 
of 1545 he took over Waldseemiiller’s depiction of political affiliation by flags: 
in Munster’s map of the “New Islands” (America) the Antilles are adorned with 
the Castilian flag; the South Atlantic is covered with the Portuguese flag. Even 
the description of the inhabitants of “Brasil,” “Canibali,” south of the Amazonas- 



I River (today in the state of Para) is taken over from Waldseemiiller. 12 Munster’s 
text about the New World, first and foremost an account of the journeys of Co- 
lumbus and Vespucci, serves as a justification of that characterization: From 
Vespucci’s third journey in 1501 by order of King Manuel I. of Portugal (1495- 

1 1521), Munster recounts the exotic stories, including libertinage (Mulieres (ut 
dixi) etsi nudae incedant et libidinosissimae sint) and cannibalism ( ego hominem noui — 
quern et allocutus sum — qui plus quam ex trecentis humanis corporibus edisse vulgabatur ) 
that Vespucci had published. 13 Apparently not being dramatic enough, Munster 
decided to further embroider the scene: Vespucci and his men “reached the 
land one calls Besilicam [the possibility of a typographical error cannot be ex- 
cluded] . . . and there he discovered people on an island who were more vicious 
than wild animals.” A woodcarving of a human corpse put on a meat skewer 
completes the picture of Brazil as the home of absolute bestiality. 14 

Also on the eastern fringes of the South Atlantic the Portuguese dominated 
in Munster’s account. In the sixth part of his Cosmographia (Von dem land Africa — 
Of the land Africa) he commenced his account about contemporary Africa with 
the “numerous journeys” (“manigfaltigen schiffungen”) of the Portuguese who 
“circumnavigate the whole of Africa from Lisbon to Calicuth [in India] and from 
Calicuth back to . . . Portugall.” He admitted that “the interior [of Africa] has 
down to the present day not yet emerged.” 15 While northern Africa is described 
with various details, Munster apparently did not know much about events and 
places beyond the coastline of the Southern Atlantic. On his map of Africa, the 
southwestern parts are covered by trees, birds, and an elephant. However, the 
political situation of the sea seemed evident to him: the coast northwest off Caput 
bonespei is graphically dominated by a galley that according to the text should be 
Portuguese, although he mentions neither Bartholomeu Dias (apx. 1450-1500) 
nor Vasco da Gama (apx. 1469-1524). 

It was known to Munster that already before Christ travelers had circum- 
vented Africa. Nonetheless, “this is nothing in comparison with shipping that 
currently takes place” during his lifetime in order to bring “spices and food- 
stuffs for all of Europe.” 16 Munster’s account of the Kingdom of Lusitania went 
into more detail when he described the results of the exploration under King 
Manuel I in “Ano Christi 1500.” “However, it appears that these shipments cause 
great damage to the Germans, Frenchmen, Englishmen, and the Danish.” Not 
only do they allegedly block “the way to India, but they also make sure that the 
spices reach us with great profit for the Portuguese and to our marked harm. 


Since what is of high [quality] they keep [for themselves] and what is not they 
sell to us at the highest price.” Munster was not convinced by the Portuguese 
claim to spread Christianity on their travels but assumed that they “look for 
their own great advantage from this pretence.” 17 

Several revised editions of Munster’s Cosmographia attested to the increased 
geographical knowledge about the new world. The meanders of the Amazon 
River or the graphically depicted width of “El gran rio de Parana” are just two 
examples of the map of the New World that was included in the edition of 1588. 
However, the unknown cartographer admitted that “it [the New World] in its 
full extent is currently not yet explored.” The America map contains explana- 
tions of the political situation: “Persilia A Lusitanis Ao 1504.” “Bresilia, which is 
located at the equinoctial in the south, is held by the King of Portugal.” The new 
map of Africa in the same edition depicted the South Atlantic in its entirety as 
it included the coast of “Bresilie” up the La Plata River. Similar to the America 
map, it was copied from the Ortelius -Atlas of 1570. The difficulties, Europeans 
had experienced in their attempts to set foot in Africa can be recognized from 
the fact that — contrary to Waldseemiiller eighty years ago — there are no insig- 
nia of political affiliation anymore, although the mouth of the Congo River is 
clearly discernible. Also the “deserta” along the southern Atlantic coast, where 
the Portuguese seafarers had erected their padroes, was now mentioned. 18 

Indications of European spheres of influences in Central and Southern Africa 
are also not a constant feature of German maps of later centuries. The map of 
Africa of the cartographer Johann Georg Schreiber of 1749 depicts “Angola” as 
part of the larger Congo region. Missionary efforts are recognizable due to the 
name “S. Salvator” at the mouth of the Congo River. The place is marked as one 
of the few settlements where apparently Christianity is practiced. At the south- 
ern end of the continent the African inhabitants, “Gixiqua” and “Hotentos,” are 
mentioned. 19 A final map of Africa to mention is the map of August Stieler 
(1828). It depicts the coast north and south of the Congo River (when the slave 
trade was still in full swing) as a busy place of settlements. Interestingly, byway 
of color political entities “belonging” to European powers are marked on the 
map, reaching — as patches — from the coast toward the interior. South of the 
twentieth degree of latitude, however, there is an empty “desert plateau” inhab- 
ited by “Dambaras” and no color marking at all. Only south of the Orange River 
does British “Capland” attest to any European civilization. Portugal nonetheless 
ranks first in the Stieler’s listing of “European settlements.” 20 



Even though German ship-owners and captains were not heavily involved in 
the transatlantic trade of the Southern hemisphere, nautical charts of the South 
Atlantic were published in German during the eighteenth century. They were, 
however drawn by, for example, French or Dutch geographers, whose compa- 
triots were effecting a flourishing trade in the Congo region. The differences in 
the European exertion of power are graphically emphasized by the comparative 
view of both coasts of the South Atlantic on one map. The countless Christian 
names of settlements on the Brazilian side speak of the extent of Portuguese 
colonization. They rarely find their equivalents on the African side. 21 (Imagi- 
nary) power relations are also discernible from the sea: the map’s innumerable 
straight lines crossing the sea are a graphical expression of a colonial matrix 
that had been built up in the South Atlantic. They create an impression of math- 
ematical clarity and controllability of the sea and read like callings to follow 
their example and span the distances from Africa to Brazil. 22 

With the onset of active European exploration and settlement in the New 
World and in Africa, German migrants became part of the developing colonial 
societies by crossing the South Atlantic. On both South American and southern 
African shores they searched for fortunes, adventures, or simply a better life. 

Germans in Brazil 

Nowhere along the South Atlantic shores were German immigration, and com- 
mercial, political, or military influence as old and numerous as in Brazil. Ger- 
man mercenaries like Hans Staden (1525-1576) soon took the chance to enlist 
in the Portuguese navy to take part in the conquest of the New World. 23 Once 
European settlement had commenced, German specialists like miners were 
explicitly invited by the Portuguese and Dutch authorities to work in the colo- 
nies. An early but tragic example for a specialist who went to Brazil is the fate 
of the Goldsmith Christoph Rausch from Pernambuco. He was, after a trial by 
the Holy Inquisition, threatened with the stake and finally pardoned in Lisbon 
in 1619. Rausch’s story, meticulously researched by Jose A. Gonsalves de Mello, 
also illuminates to what degree some migrants managed to amass fortunes. 
Furthermore, it reveals the conflicts of faith and differing notions of freedom 
that characterized the early societies formed by migrants from several European 
nations in the cosmopolitan towns of colonial Brazil. 24 Such “melange” of peo- 
ple was also described by the Jesuit Joao Antonio Antonil in 1711 in his book 
about Minas Gerais: “Tous les ans les bateaux amenent une foule de Portugais et 


d’etrangeres qui veulent aller au Mines.” 25 Jesuits of German origin also began 
to work in Brazil. 

It has been part of the self-assurance of Brazil’s German-speaking minority 
to underline the uninterrupted “contribution” of Germans to Brazil’s (Euro- 
pean) history, “from the very first day.” A lecture of Carlos H. Hunsche about 
this subject given in the Colegio Estadual in Curitiba (1970) is a starring exam- 
ple. He lists numerous Germans who had supported the colonization of Brazil 
since 1500 until today. Hunsche mentions soldiers and politicians, authors and 
explorers of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. But most of 
all he emphasizes the new work ethos imported by the masses of German set- 
tlers during the nineteenth century, thereby implying that it was “the Germans” 
who taught “the Brazilians” how to work (without slaves from Africa). 26 Also in 
German contemporary writing the notion of Brazil as a country of fabulous but 
neglected potential that began to fulfill its promise only when German industri- 
ousness reached the shores of Rio Grande do Sul and other provinces permeates 
almost every page. 27 In light of the abolitionist discourses, labor migration was 
indeed a major feature of Brazilian history of the nineteenth century, and it was 
closely related to nation-building processes — in Brazil as well as in Germany. 

Workers from China (“coolies”) were the first migrants (since 1810) trans- 
ferred to Brazil as alternative to African slaves. 28 Portugal’s port of Macao often 
served as the departing point for the workers. However, over the course of the 
century Brasilian governments followed an “implacably aggressive policy of seek- 
ing European immigrants.” 29 Beginning in 1867 the Brazilian government and 
later the provincial government of Sao Paulo began to invest “markedly” in the 
immigration policy by paying for the transport from Europe to Brazil. By doing 
so they wanted to create a free labor marked of “white” workers and avert a cri- 
sis in the supply of rural manpower. In the discussion about the ideal worker, 
questions of race soon became central as Africans and Asians immigrants were 
rejected. The sociologist Sales Augusto dos Santos has summarized these discus- 
sions as follows: “Based on the need to improve the Brazilian race, the case for 
European immigration was overwhelming. This racist discourse not only was 
supported by arguments in favor of a policy to whiten Brazilian population but 
also determined that free labor would be imported according to racial criteria.” 30 

Especially in the southern provinces immigration policy was not just about 
replacing slave-laborers with paid workers but about “colonization,” meaning 
the creation of economically viable homesteads for families based on small-scale 


property. 31 The aim of Brazil’s ruling elite was to form “a new and different na- 
tion,” to “build a white nation.” 32 Selective immigration was thus considered 
an instrument of population policy focusing on “economic progress and social 
renewal.” 33 Germans were considered particularly worthy for this undertaking. 
So eager were some politicians for European or more specific Germanic invigo- 
ration of Brazil that they “lamented the [seventeenth-century] expulsion from 
Pernambuco of the Dutch, an ‘adventurous race’ and one of ‘advanced civiliza- 
tion.’” 34 Already before 1870 there had been some attempts to attract German 
and Swiss immigrants (most of whom were illiterate peasants), “with the ex- 
plicit intention of countering the disproportion between blacks and whites.” 35 
However, when the appalling work conditions on the Jacendas in Brazil became 
known in Prussia, the paternalistic Heydt Edict of 1859 (Heydt’sches Reskript) 
prohibited the recruitment (not the emigration) of Prussian workers for Brazil. 
Emigration agencies were no longer allowed to advertise in an often misleading 
manner the life to be expected in Brazil. The edict was abrogated in 1896. 36 

The first “wave” of non-Portuguese European immigrants had arrived prior 
to independence to “fill the demographic voids,” but these numbers were small. 
For the period 1819 to 1829 2,326 German immigrants were registered. The 
demographers Bideau and Nadalin calculated the percentage of German im- 
migrants among the total immigration to Brazil for several periods: 1819-1849, 
6,983 Germans (35.8 percent); 1850-1869, 32,229 Germans (14.2 percent); 
1870-1919, 90,612 Germans (2.7 percent); 1920-1939, 103,468 Germans (8.8 
percent). For the period 1819 to 1970, Germans made up 4.6 percent of the total 
immigration of 5. 7 million persons to Brazil. (The largest group of immigrants 
arrived from Italy [1,540,000], compared to 1,480,000 Portuguese and 600,000 
Spaniards.) 37 However, as Bideau and Nadalin emphasize in light of the fact that 
the German territory varied considerably during this period, it cannot be dis- 
cerned from the sources how many non-Germans were included among those 
263 ,241 individuals; neither can be ascertained how many Germans were counted 
as Swiss, Austrians, Russians, Poles, or Yugoslavs by the Brazilian authorities. 38 
Other estimated that in total around 300,000 German immigrants went to Bra- 
zil. 39 Immigration was “only a secondary factor in the increase” of Brazil’s pop- 
ulation in comparison with the “very high natality.” 40 The fertility of Germans 
was said to be very high. 41 However, in comparison with the Italian immigrants 
the number of children per woman was lower. Furthermore, there were signif- 
icant differences between Catholic and Protestant immigrants from Germany: 


calculations for Curitiba showed that Catholic women marrying between the 
ages of fifteen and nineteen had on average n.8 children, versus 8.5 for the Prot- 
estant women of the same age group in the period 1889 to 1909. Later, the num- 
bers decreased proportionally. 42 

The endless streams of emigrants from the German principalities and after 
unification in 1871 from the German Reich caused first German business lead- 
ers and finally German politicians to turn their attention to the shores of the 
South Atlantic. Prior to unification, the “Hansa cities Hamburg and Bremen 
conducted most of the commerce . . . between the German states and Central 
[and South] America.” 43 Hamburg and Brazil concluded a treaty of commerce 
in 1827 and since then the commerce had grown constantly. In 1833, the French 
consul called Hamburg Brazil’s “entrepot en Europe.” 44 Toward the end of the 
century, German merchandise grew in importance in South Atlantic harbors. 
Germany entered the marked “rather late, [but] came forward at a surprising 
rate”: 45 “In the view of British officials and merchants, it was the German com- 
mercial threat rather than that of the United States that was to be most feared on 
the Latin American continent.” 46 In the Portuguese-German treaty of commerce 
of 1872, which was based on the most-favorite-nation principle, Germany will- 
ingly conceded Brazil’s special role for Portugal: a provision in favor of Portugal 
detailed that advantages could be granted exclusively to Brazil that could not be 
claimed by Germany. 47 This provision needs to be seen in light of Brazil’s eco- 
nomic importance for Portugal: As research has shown, “Portugal balanced its 
accounts with Europe by means of a permanent imbalance in its accounts with 
Brazil.” 48 This did not prevent Germany from becoming Brazil’s third most im- 
portant trade and investment partner (after Great Britain and the United States) 
in the decade prior to the First World War. 49 

Also German politicians were looking for gains in the area. In their view, 
German emigrants were important for the question whether the German em- 
pire would once belong to the “World Powers” or would inevitably perish. The 
Germans in foreign countries were considered to be helpful as pressure group 
for German interests, to open sales markets for German exports or even as 
starting point for colonial ambitions. Therefore, the German government and 
the society at large were basically positively inclined toward the emigration of 
Germans. However, in light of the rate of “assimilation” of Germans, especially 
in the United States, it was attempted to better preserve the German identity 
(Deutschtum) of the emigrants. In the last quarter of the nineteenth century Ger- 



man emigration and worldwide German expansion were argumentatively con- 
nected by plans for the foundation of settler colonies similar to their British 
counterparts. The new Heimat for Germans should be no longer “New England” 
but Neu Deutschland overseas. The colonial policies of the German empire 
since 1884 were in part initiated by this quest for demographic and economic 
expansion, world power and preservation of the national identity of German 
emigrants. 50 State-controlled steering of the emigration flow was therefore 
seen a political necessity in order to avoid the ongoing “loss of national energy” 
due to assimilation. South America was recognized as a viable alternative to the 
United States, since in Argentina, Brazil, or Chile the Germans were living mostly 
in closed (agricultural) communities and stayed among themselves. In light of 
these intentions the German Emigration Law of 1897 has been correctly charac- 
terized as an “emigration-redirecting law” (Auswanderungs-Umlenkungsgesetz). 51 

Moreover, Latin America and Brazil in particular became the focus of some 
German colonial fantasists who dreamed of German annexations once the Bra- 
zilian empire would break up. They attributed the tens of thousands of Germans 
in southern Brazil and the La Plata region with a specific ability to create com- 
munities that they considered the cradle of a German state in the area. These 
voices were however a minority among myriads of Germans speaking and pub- 
lishing about foreign policy. Others warned openly that Germany could never 
win politically as much as it could lose commercially if such schemes were to be 
followed. 52 Although annexation plans were never part of the official German 
foreign and colonial policy, 53 rumors about them reached Brazil. The resulting 
idea of a pericjo alemao (German threat) emerged in Brazil in the late nineteenth 
century. 54 While the “process of whitening the country so desired by its ruling 
elites” 55 was to be accelerated by massive immigration from Europe, a “confed- 
eracy” of German Brazilians was regarded a threat for Brazil’s nation-building 
process. Resentment against Germans grew. It was also due to their economic 
success, which was often achieved despite the initial hardship of those recently 
arrived. 56 More than that, the perceived hesitation of (Protestant) German im- 
migrants to integrate and to speak and teach to their children the Portuguese 
language was understood by some Luso-Brazilians as lack of loyalty to Brazil. 
Cultural conflicts, vividly described by the sociologist Emilio Willems, occurred 
not only between German- and Luso-Brazilians but also between different Ger- 
man groups and generations. 57 Separatist movements in Rio Grande do Sul, 
where the German element was strongest in Brazil, gave political relevance and 


urgency to the perigo alemao. 58 In the decade prior to the First World War authors 
such as the former parliamentarian Silvio Romero (1851-1914) tirelessly warned 
of the growing German influence and appetite for Brazilian territory. 59 While 
older studies had suggested that “Germans were marginal to Brazilian society,” 
it must be underlined, that these historical animosities did not impede the 
successful penetration of Brazilian elite institutions by individuals of German 
descent. 60 

Germans in Argentina 

Also for the territory that became later the Republic of Argentina, German nar- 
rations of pioneering adventures and hard working peasants arriving in the 
La Plata region with nothing but their “work ethic” are well documented. 61 As 
in the Brazilian case the German merchant followed his mercenary compatriot. 
The conquistador Ulrich Schmidl (1510-1580) of Straubing near Munich was among 
those who “founded” Buenos Aires. The account of his survival in the New 
World from 1534 bis 1554 makes him one of the first historians of Argentina. 
As is well known, he too did not abstain from reporting about cannibalism — 
yet remarkably, in his narrative the conquistadores themselves devoured one an- 
other. 62 Also in later centuries, German mercenaries signed up to take over 
military tasks in favor of Argentina. The most prominent episode might be the 
secret treaty of 1827 between Argentine officers and German mercenaries in ser- 
vice of the emperor of Brazil. They agreed to intrigue against Brazil in order to 
create chaos and to dismember the Brazilian empire by founding an indepen- 
dent Republic of Santa Catarina that would welcome all Germans settling in 
Brazil. 63 

Apart from such military affairs German relations with the La Plata region 
were established after independence was won from Spain. In the 1820s, Ger- 
mans sought to institute trade relations with the area of Buenos Aires. Accord- 
ing to Great Britain’s charge d’affaires in Buenos Aires, Sir Woodbine Parish 
(1796-1881), the German imports consisted of “cloths and linens, and printed 
cottons from the Rhine ... A branch of the Rhenish Manufacturing Company 
was set up in Buenos Ayres in 1824.” However, the selling prices were so low 
that the establishment “was broken up.” Already at this point in time the “im- 
portant proportion of the British trade [was] very manifest; it amounts in fact to 
as much as the trade of all other foreign countries with Buenos Ayres put to- 
gether”: in 1822 Britain imported goods valued at 5.7 million “Spanish Dollars” 


out of ii. 2 million total imports; the “North of Europe [including] Holland, Ger- 
many, Sweden, and Denmark” reached only 552,187 “Spanish Dollars.” 64 While 
Great Britain was able to conclude with Argentina a treaty of friendship and 
commerce in 1825, Prussia followed only in 1857. “Such has been the British 
commercial, logistical and cultural influence in Argentina that it was customar- 
ily referred to as part of Britain‘s ‘informal empire’ or ‘sixth dominion.’” 65 
Nevertheless, and despite harsh competition, after 1870 the German export- 
ers as well as investors managed to make a place for themselves in the Argentine 
market (which was for a long time mostly confined to the La Plata region). 
Numbers are difficult to ascertain and are often inconsistent. It is important to 
bear in mind that Argentina in the years after 1900 was one of the fasted growing 
economies of the world. It was considered “preeminently a land of progress”; 
its capital, Buenos Aires, was described as “a marvel of splendour and luxury.” 
An American commentator stated in 1918, “The Republic . . . has attracted vast 
sums of foreign capital.” 66 And indeed, Argentina was for Imperial Germany 
the first place for investment in Latin America: 67 “powerful Teutonic interests 
controlling public utilities that operate in Buenos Aires, Rosario, and elsewhere. 
German banks have in the past wielded great influence in Argentina ... It is 
reasonable to suppose that nearly $250,000,000 of German capital is invested in 
Argentina.” 68 However, the first German bank (Banco Aleman Transatlantico) 
had been founded only in 1893. It was rightfully observed that “Germans con- 
trolled no railroads . . . The Germans arrived in Argentina too late.” Again, the 
British dominated this key area. 69 On the other hand, as in Brazil and elsewhere 
on the continent they complained about the growing competition from Ger- 
many. In particular, “German merchant houses controlled many of the goods 
shipped to and from South America” — a fact that should prove important during 
the First World War. To the detriment of their competitors these merchants had 
set up their branches all along the South Atlantic coast and worked closely with 
German banks and the nearby German consuls to export grain, wool, tobacco, 
and coffee at favorable rates. 70 

German immigration to Argentina before the First World War did not reach 
the levels of Brazil, although it was considerably stronger than British immigra- 
tion. 71 In the middle of the nineteenth century only around one thousand Ger- 
man immigrants had settled in Argentina. These early German settlers have been 
described as “poor devils.” Also in this field the numbers are highly inconsis- 
tent, as not only the French historian Anne Saint Sauveur-Henn emphasizes. 72 


It is said that until the First World War sixty thousand Germans had immigrated 
to Argentina. An equal number of Swiss, Austrians, or Germans from Russia 
had arrived since the middle of the century. It is however open to discussion how 
many returned or settled elsewhere. The number of people of German descent 
in these years may have passed 200,000. 73 Of those, around thirty thousand 
were German nationals living in Argentina. 74 

After 1900 the German and the Argentine army established strong bonds. 
Germany thereby could expand its influence in the South Atlantic region and 
reap profits from armament contracts. German officers were invited to Argen- 
tina to work as advisors for the army reform. Most importantly, they were asked 
to organize the War Academy. “When that institution opened its doors in April 
1900, the director and four of its ten professors were German officers.” 75 This 
German military influence on Argentina caused considerable challenges for the 
Allies during the First World War. Especially the government of Brazil felt not at 
ease with a situation of possible Argentine expansion based on German trained 
military power “in conjunction with the large Germanic population in southern 
Brazil.” 76 This example makes very evident how tensions between the two states 
were specifically aggravated by the German influence — whether through immi- 
gration or through transfer of knowledge. 

Germans in Southern Africa 

Early efforts of German colonial aspirations to participate in the triangular trade 
and to set up direct outposts on the African shores, remained both economically 
and politically marginal. In 1682 a chartered company from the German prin- 
cipality Kur-Brandenburg, the Brandenburg African Company (Kurfiirstliche 
Afrikanisch-Brandenburgische Compagnie), established a small colony con- 
sisting of two Gold Coast settlements in present-day Ghana. The fort Groft Frie- 
drichsburg became the capital of the “colony” that was eventually sold to the 
Dutch in 1721. 77 This short-lived attempt of the House of Brandenburg to com- 
pete with the Portuguese and Dutch along the West African coast was to remain 
for almost two hundred years the closest German endeavor to reach the African 
South Atlantic “politically.” The Hansa cities Hamburg and Bremen however 
had managed to create strong bonds with the merchants along the Guinea 
coast. Around 1870 companies like C. Woermann or Jantzen&Thormalen main- 
tained more than twenty trading posts (Faktoreien) from Liberia to the Kongo 
River. C. Woermann alone was said to hold 25 percent of the entire trade along 


the coast of the Cameroons. Company owned sail boats and steamships traveled 
up und down the coast to purchase and deliver the goods. The profits were made 
by importing to Africa cheap merchandise like spirits, guns, gunpowder, salt, or 
cloth and exporting to Europe expensive colonial products like palm oil or ivory. 
However, in comparison with the German trade in South America the number 
of goods transacted and the turnover remained low. 78 

The situation looked completely different at the southern tip of the African 
continent where the Dutch East India Company (voc) had established the Cape 
of Good Hope as a victualling point for its vessels in 1652. Ever since, Cape 
Town had developed into an important harbor and trading point which attracted 
not only Dutch and Hugenott settlers (since 1688) but also thousands of Britons 
and Germans. The climatic conditions in the Cape region allowed for extensive 
agriculture and most of all cattle farming. The advantages and details of the area 
have been described by the natural scientist Peter Kolbe (1675-1726), who was 
invited to work as an astronomer at the Cape. Published in 1719, his German 
account was the first entirely dedicated to the Cape region and its people. 79 

During the nineteenth century the number of German immigrants in south- 
ern Africa as well as German investments grew constantly. Germans not only 
settled in the Cape Colony but also went as military settlers to “British Kaf- 
fraria” in Xhosa land (more than two thousand German settlers) and to Natal, 
where they founded in 1854 the mission station and settlement Hermannsburg. 
Also many other places bore German names and some British administrators 
begun to worry about the German influence. 80 The former deputy governor 
of gswa, Oskar Hintrager (1872-1955), published in 1952 an account of the 
Germans in South Africa (he called it “History of South Africa”) that resembles 
much of the German-Brazilian historiography of his time. Also in South Africa, 
he claimed, it was the Germans with their “perseverance,” “diligence,” and “de- 
votion to hard work,” who brought civilization and progress to a country of 
hardship and chaos. According to Hintrager’s understanding, the Afrikanders, 
the Boers, are essentially of German stock, and he quotes a South African histo- 
rian of German origin who quantified that allegedly “65 per cent of the blood of 
Afrikaners is German.” 81 Claims like these had already made British politicians 
and journalists feel uncomfortable fifty years earlier when they thought of Ger- 
many’s political ambitions in southern Africa. On the other hand, it should be 
realized that Hintrager could barely point to ten cities in South Africa where one 
thousand or more Germans are living, and Cape Town was not among them. 82 



Before the South African War (1899-1902) it was assumed that fifteen thousand 
Germans worked in Transvaal, many of whom may have left the country during 
or after the war. 83 

Even when numbers are — again — hard to establish this can be an indicator 
that German demographic influence in South Africa was not overwhelming 
in the sense that the German empire could have attempted to dominate affairs 
in the region. Also commercially, Germany played no superior role. Indeed, “Ger- 
man trade with South Africa and the S.A.R. [Transvaal] [had] certainly increased 
dramatically throughout the 1890 . . . German products virtually dominated 
the Rand markets for machinery and electrical equipment.” 84 However, most of 
the products were delivered via the British harbor of Cape Town and the “relative 
decline of British trade” in comparison with the Germans did not alter the dom- 
inant role of British merchandise and investment in the region in total. Mining 
and railways were among the main fields of investment German capitalists were 
interested in the Rand. The German ambassador in London, Graf Hatzfeld, 
mentioned that “500 million marks” had been invested from Germany in the 
Transvaal. And those capitalists in Berlin were interested in “long-term political 
stability” in the Rand and therefore did not oppose British intervention in Trans- 
vaal in 1899. Rather, they saw their business growing again already shortly after 
the war. 85 

During the South African War (“Boer War”) emotions in some circles in Ger- 
many run high. They demanded military support for the Boers against British 
“imperialism.” However, Germany stayed neutral, although guns and explosives 
had been smuggled by the Boers and their supporters via gswa. Around 3,000 
foreign volunteers, among them German, American, Dutch, and French corps, 
fought for the Boers. The largest contingent consisted of 750 Germans, many 
of whom were residents of Transvaal or the Orange Freestate. 86 However, also 
some desperados in Germany decided to join the fight for “vryheid” and trav- 
eled to the Boer republics; among them was the above-mentioned Oskar Hin- 
trager, then a judge from Wiirttemberg. 

In addition to German traders, mercenaries, and settlers, German-speaking 
missionaries arrived at the Cape. Georg Schmidt (1709-1785) of Herrnhut in 
Saxony from the Moravian Church (Bohmische Briider) was the first to attempt 
an evangelization of Africans at the Cape in 1 737. The Dutch authorities had 
shown no interest in this. However, he had to close his mission station already 
in 1744 due to the hostility of settlers and the administration. A new station was 


opened in 1792. 87 Later also the London Missionary Society, the Berliner Mis- 
sion and the Rheinische Missionsgesellschaft set up a network of mission sta- 
tions in Southern Africa. First, this network of stations remained within the 
borders of the Cape colony that in 1806 had finally become British. However, 
also Namaland north of the Orange River was drawn into the “orbit” of the mis- 
sionaries, when the German Heinrich Schmelen (1776-1848) of the London 
Missionary Society followed his congregation into northern direction. In 1814 
they erected a station at a place he called Bethanien at the fringes of the Namib 
Desert. 88 

It was here, in the area north of the Orange River, that seventy years later the 
first German colony, gswa, was “founded.” The land had been repeatedly vis- 
ited by hunters and missionaries, ships crews had passed the coast, 89 but no 
European state had claimed sovereignty over the coastal strip between the Or- 
ange and Kunene Rivers yet (the only exemption being the harbor of Walvisbay, 
annexed by the Cape Colony in 1878 and mainly used as a victualling point for 
the navy base on Saint Helena). 90 In 1883 the German merchant Adolf Liideritz 
and his assistants signed “contracts” with several African chiefs according to 
which they sold their land to him. Liideritz managed to receive the “protection” 
of the German empire for his recently acquired “property.” Imperial Chancellor 
Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898), who in the past had been a staunch adversary of 
German colonial possessions, had agreed to this “protection” in order to please 
the colonial enthusiasts in Germany for whose votes in the upcoming election 
he was vying. It was claimed that gswa could accommodate the masses of Ger- 
man emigrants, keeping them under German authority, and would thus solve 
the “social question.” During the Congo Conference in Berlin (1884-1885), Por- 
tugal was made to accept sacrifices in two regions it originally considered to be 
within its sphere of influence: North (Free State of Kongo) and South (gswa) of 
Angola new colonial states were carved out although hitherto the principles of 
“discovery” and “first occupation,” as depicted in Waldseemiiller’s map of 1507, 
had been recognized under international law. A contemporary commented: 
“Diplomacy became subservient to an economic and social question.” 91 

Germany’s southern African acquisition was, much like that of the other Pro- 
tectorates in Kamerun, Togo and German East Africa, at first barely touched by its 
new master. A few engagements by navy vessels were all the German government 
initially afforded. Bismarck was reluctant when it came to the expensive deploy- 
ment of troops in the new African territories, which (according to his plans) 



should not have been “colonies” proper, but instead protectorates (Schutzgebiete): 
territories administered privately by “British style” chartered companies. How- 
ever, such companies were, as in other European colonies, nothing but a “relic 
from a past [mercantile] age.” 92 And also the hopes proved futile that Africans 
would willingly accept German “protection.” Increasing “rebellions” led to the 
deployment of more troops. Even with these increases, the numbers of men em- 
ployed were still to remain small: In 1893, only 220 men were deployed to gswa, 
in an effort to subdue the Ovaherero and Nama. Perhaps unsurprisingly given 
the number of troops deployed, it would ultimately be political machinations, 
rather than German military might, that would lead to the signing of “protec- 
tion treaties” by African leaders like Samuel Maharero (1856-1923) of Okah- 
andja, or Hendrik Witbooi (apx. 1830-1905) of Gibeon. 93 Only after the colonial 
wars of 1904-1908 could German colonial authority attempt to enforce its colo- 
nial legislation vis-a-vis the African population, most of all the duty to work and 
to register with the administration. 

The demographic and economic hopes of Germany’s colonial enthusiasts 
were not realized. In comparison to the millions that left Germany in the de- 
cades between 1885 and 1905 only very few Germans decided to settle in gswa. 
According to official data gswa’s “white population” in 1897 consisted of 2,628 
persons, of whom only 1,221 were German men (the total population stood at 
around 200, 000). 94 In 1913 the German population had grown to 14,830 (10,147 
men and 4,683 women including children). 95 In light of these small numbers 
and life on isolated farms, questions of acculturation seemed to be pressing for 
contemporaries. Similar to German parents in Brazil who were horrified at see- 
ing their children conversing together in Portuguese and complained about 
their offspring being uerlust , 96 parents in gswa (and also the German colonial 
administration) were concerned about the tendency of their children to speak 
Cape-Dutch or, even worse, one of the African languages. They called this dis- 
tastefully uerkajfern. And not only children were said “to be at risk” of leading a 
life outside the European cultural norms. 97 

Considering that more Germans lived in South Africa or in South America 
than in gswa, it is also noteworthy that financially German colonialism resulted 
in huge losses. The colonial population depended to a large extent on public 
expenses. They worked for the colonial administration as soldiers (around two 
thousand in 1914), as policemen (around five hundred), or as public servants 
or for the railway company. Fewer than half of the German population had pur- 


chased farms; others ran small businesses. Only when diamonds were found 
in gswa in 1908 Germany’s big business became involved with the colony. The 
African market had become more important after 1900. However, the German 
colonies did not participate in the rapid growth of the international trade. They 
were irrelevant for the export economy. In 1913 merely 0.5 percent of Germany’s 
total export went to its colonies. 98 Henri Brunschwig had already remarked de- 
cades ago with a sense of irony: “La periode la plus rentable de l’expansion alle- 
mande a certainement ete celle qui preceda la creation de 1 ’Empire coloniale.” 99 
The German colonial empire caused only expenses and losses. 

Germans in Angola 

In contrast both with the South Atlantic’s American coast and with southern 
Africa, the area north and south of the Congo estuary could barely be considered 
for European settlement. The tropical climate and unknown diseases prevented 
European incursions for a long time. However, the Portuguese, the French, and 
the Dutch had long established trade connections with the area. Most of the 
slaves destined for Brazil were shipped from Angolan shores. Permanent Euro- 
pean settlements along the coast, like Ambriz, Luanda, or Benguela, remained 
rare for a long time. Mostly, traders and visitors from Europe stayed there merely 
for weeks or months rather than years. Also Germans were among them. Very 
few settled permanently. However, “one of the most distinguished families in 
Angola,” called Van Dunem, originates from “a Dutch Jewish trader from Ham- 
burg who came to Angola around 1600.” His “wealthy mestizo children” 100 and 
their offspring “provided military leaders ever since.” 101 The law professor Fer- 
nando Jose F. Dias Van Dunem twice served as prime minister of Angola (1991— 
1992; 1996-1999). 

Other visitors from Germany left less politically influential traces. However, 
the accounts of their sojourns are valuable sources for historians. The history 
and ethnography of Angola, as Beatrix Heintze has stated, cannot be written 
without their due consideration. These accounts consist mostly of eyewitness 
reports of doctors, hunters, ethnographers, and others who have time and again 
visited the Portuguese possessions along Africa’s southern coast. 102 Especially 
during the last part of the nineteenth century, the Portuguese sphere of influence 
proved to be attractive for Germans. However, the synopsis of their accounts, 
meticulously compiled by Heintze, shows that also in earlier times Germans 
had found their way to Africa’s South Atlantic coast. 


In December 1611 Samuel Brun (or Braun) (1590-1668), a military doctor 
from Basel, reached the Luango Coast and the mouth of the Congo River at the 
“border of Angola” on a Dutch trading vessel. The ship anchored for seven 
months in the Congo River to barter with the African population. Brun himself 
was able to assemble a small fortune through this kind of trade. Considering 
that his report contained only few details about the Kingdom of Kongo and the 
earldom of Soyo, Beatrix Heintze assumed that Brun had to treat an unusual 
high number of sick sailors. Therefore he had barely time to visit the surround- 
ing area. Nevertheless, Brun’s observations about the Loango Coast and its peo- 
ples are among the classic early firsthand sources of African history. In compar- 
ison with later accounts, Brun’s descriptions are remarkable because of their 
openness and relative unbiased perspective on African ways of life and customs, 
even when they seemed strange to the visitor. Positive connotations like “beau- 
tiful” or “orderly” are not lacking in his narrative. 103 

The Officer Johann Paul Augspurger’s report of 1644 was probably the first 
document about Luanda published by a German. Coming from Brazil he arrived 
in Africa as a soldier on duty for the Dutch-West Indies Company. In summer 
1641, Commander Augspurger participated under the General Jacob Henderson 
in the Dutch conquest of Luanda, Benguela, and Sao Thome before returning 
the next year via Brazil to Amsterdam. His description of Luanda emphasized 
not only military aspects as the fortification of the town, its excellent harbor or 
Angola’s unhealthy climate (within seven months 360 soldiers died due to dis- 
eases; the remainder of the garrison had to receive reinforcements from Brazil 
every three months). Also the agricultural and commercial aspects of the live 
along the coast are mentioned together with a few (essentialistic) remarks about 
Africans and their comportments. 104 Georg Markgraf (1610-1644), a botanist 
and cartographer of Brazil in Dutch services, had to experience the dangers of 
Angola too. The German, who had worked for Count Moritz von Nassau-Siegen 
in Pernambuco, arrived in Luanda during his journey to the Dutch Indies but 
died soon after his arrival in Angola. 105 

Another German medical doctor, Georg Tams ofAltona, accompanied a trad- 
ing enterprise to Angola in 1841 on the invitation of the Portuguese Consul Gen- 
eral in Hamburg, Jose Ribeiro dos Santos. Tams’s account of his seven-week 
sojourn in Luanda and his contempt for the ongoing slave trade has been color- 
fully related and contextualized by historian David Birmingham. He rightfully 
concluded that Tams “was one of the first of a distinguished band of German- 



speaking travellers to visit Angola.” 106 The character of their travels changed 
slowly, however, in comparison to earlier visitors. Some of these men were re- 
searchers with more or less outspoken academic/“scientific” interests. Adolf 
Bastian’s account of his visit to Sao Salvador (Mbanza Congo), the capital of the 
Kingdom of Congo, in 1857 was made possible due to his assignment as yet 
another German medical doctor on a ship calling at the harbor of Luanda. 107 
However, he expressed his ethnographic interests openly. These interests were 
the incitement also of his later travels and not a by-product. He was to become 
the founding father of Germany’s ethnography as an academic subject. 108 The 
formalization and professionalization of “scientific exploration” becomes evi- 
dent also with the erection of the German research station Chinchoxo by the 
Loango Expedition of Adolf Bastian, Eduard Pechuel-Loesche, Julius Falken- 
stein, and others in 1873. The station near the coast of today’s Cabinda enclave 
remained in function until 1876. Even though the participants considered their 
expedition a failure, the resulting publications document a (limited yet) im- 
pression of the work of early anthropologists and (to an even lesser degree) of 
the life of their “objects.” A focus on knowledge production and the surround- 
ing circumstances emphasizes that most of the “anthropological research” 
during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries took place within a “climate 
of violence.” 109 

Traders continued to call at the Angolan coast, not always welcomed by the 
Portuguese administration. Pointing indirectly to the weakness of the Portu- 
guese presence in Angola, Foreign Minister de Castro complained in 1866 that 
“American, British, French and Hamburger trading post deal with the natives 
to our detriment, for they do not pay a penny for embarked or disembarked 
goods.” 110 Others were primarily interested in game hunting and signed up for 
the expensive journey to Africa with the intention to experience the adventure 
of their life. With the onset of formal colonialism, technical advances, and the 
extension of the colonial “frontiers” from behind the coast further inland, the 
quintessential European hunter in Africa, with his particular notions of virility 
and violence, came to the fore. Some left Europe to settle permanently in Africa. 
The German farmer Wilhelm Mattenklodt who had published extensively about 
his hunting trips in gwsa and Angola before and after the First World War is 
just one example among many. 111 

As can be seen from the financing of the expeditions and the increased partic- 
ipation of soldiers in those expeditions, the German government became more 


and more involved in the affairs of southern Africa. Soldiers worked as cartog- 
raphers and organizers of caravans. The (proto-)colonial intentions of men like 
Curt von Francois (1852-1931) and Herrmann Wissmann (1853-1905) were all 
too evident. Wissmann’s journey across Africa from Luanda to Saadi at the In- 
dian Ocean (1881-1882) excited colonial enthusiasts not only in Germany. 112 It 
is no accident that both soldier-adventurers were called to the colonial service 
once a formal German colonial empire had been established. Francois became 
governor (Landeshauptmann) of German South-West Africa (1891-1894); Wiss- 
mann became governor of German East Africa (1895-1896). 

With increased business opportunities in legitimate commerce also less ad- 
venturous men from Germany (and other European countries) arrived in An- 
gola. The majority opened their commerce in Luanda or Benguela. The above- 
mentioned Portuguese-German treaty of commerce provided for imports from 
Portuguese colonies to Germany under the most-favorite-nation principle. How- 
ever, agricultural and industrial imports from Germany into the opposite di- 
rection were not granted the same privilege. Restriction on foreign commerce 
in Angola remained in force. 113 It needs to be taken into consideration that 
custom revenues remained one of Angola’s most important public income 
sources. Nevertheless, German interests increased, and the German vice con- 
sulate in Luanda, administered since 1908 by the Portuguese business man Edu- 
ardo Prazeres, was elevated to a consulate in December 1913. It was headed by 
the career diplomat Dr. Ernst Eisenlohr (1882-1858), arriving from the Ger- 
man embassy in London. He reported to the Consul in Lisbon and oversaw the 
vice consuls in Benguela and Mogamedes, Schoss, and Verdur, who — as private 
businessmen — acted as honorary German consuls. 114 Those traders, however, 
who dared to go further inland experienced that, at the beginning of the twenti- 
eth century, Angola was far from being occupied in its entirety by the Portu- 
guese. The Portuguese colonial state, “despite its seeming antiquity, remained a 
series of patrimonial satrapies improvisionally run by an amalgam of settlers, 
renegades, and officials.” 115 In 1902, “the great colonial war” against the king- 
dom ofMbailundo was raging, 116 the governor general informed the German 
consul that the central district of Benguela had to be closed due to “special cir- 
cumstances.” 117 A private letter to the consul about the “serious war” went into 
more detail. A German trader mentioned settlers who had to escape to the coast 
since the area ofBie was “barred by the blacks.” 118 



The professionalization of German consulates in Angola had, however, not 
only commercial but also political reasons. Considering the evident political 
and financial weakness of Portugal and in light of the German aspirations for a 
Weltpolitik, 119 Germany and Great Britain commenced negotiations about the 
future of the Portuguese colonies in 1898. At this point, rumors about German 
aspirations for (parts of) the Portuguese empire were already decades old. 120 In 
1898 the British foreign secretary, Arthur J. Balfour, and the German ambassa- 
dor, Paul von Hatzfeld, signed two secret agreements “in connection with a pos- 
sible loan to Portugal,” according to which Angola and Mozambique would be 
administratively divided between the two powers “in case of default in the pay- 
ment [by Portugal] of the interest.” This was, however, never the case. Portugal 
managed to stabilize its finances for a while and the “treaty therefore remained 
inoperative.” 121 Furthermore, the German government was unable to mobilize 
the German economy to invest heavily in Angola. Instead of following a policy 
of slow penetration pacifique and to be content with an informal zone of influence 
in southern Angola, Berlin insisted on an exclusive German sphere of influence 
and thereby ignored Portuguese interests. 122 

The Portuguese government was aware of these machinations and was eager 
to revive the “six-hundred-year-old [Luso-British] alliance.” 123 In view of the 
“general impression in England that the demands of Germany in Africa were 
exorbitant” and considering the ensuing war with the South African Republic, 
the British government responded favorably to the Portuguese advances. The al- 
liance was confirmed by secret treaty in October 1899, guaranteeing the territo- 
rial integrity of Portugal and her empire, while Portugal undertook not to permit 
the “passage of arms” destined to the Boer Republics. 124 Nevertheless, the Brit- 
ish were willing to recommence in 1911 the negotiations with the Germans about 
the future of the Portuguese colonies. 125 One reason may be Foreign Secretary 
Grey’s “often expressed disgust at the ‘scandalous’ state of affairs in Portuguese 
Africa” and his doubts about the applicability of “treaties of such ancient date.” 
In addition, the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, was known for 
his “intense hostility to the republican regime in Portugal.” 126 

By this time, the councilors in the German Foreign Office had learned their 
lesson that shortsighted policy focusing on domestic prestige and annexations 
would not have a positive result. They now considered German economic pen- 
etration of Angola and Mozambique through investment and the purchase of 



Portuguese national loans as the cornerstone of a policy that should lead in the 
future to the takeover of parts of the Portuguese colonies. Finally, also the Bel- 
gian Kongo was to be taken over, thereby uniting the German possessions to one 
huge Mittelafrika reaching from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic. A German co- 
lonial empire along the South Atlantic shores would thus have been created. 127 

These negotiations were not just a colonial end in itself. Chancellor Theodor 
v. Bethmann-Hollweg, Colonial Secretary Wilhelm Solf, Councilor Richard von 
Kiihlmann, and the envoy in Lisbon, Friedrich Rosen, hoped to use the detour 
of colonial negotiations (at Portugal’s expense) to find common ground with 
Great Britain also in Europe. They were willing to see Germany as the junior 
partner of Great Britain in Africa and hoped to break through the isolation of 
Germany within Europe. However, they “seriously under estimated the sensitiv- 
ity and tenacity of the Portuguese where their colonies were concerned.” In ad- 
dition, British Foreign Secretary Grey “had misled” the Germans regarding his 
intentions, 128 and also the German credit institutions where hardly convinced 
about the economic prospects of this financial imperialism. In early 1914 a semi- 
official study group, the Comissao luso-allemao dos estudos de Caminho de 
Ferro do Sul de Angola, was tasked with exploring the economic potentials of 
southern Angola. 129 Only in May 1914, German banks bought with the support 
of the Foreign Office in Berlin the majority of stocks of the Nyassa Consolidated 
Ltd. (Mozambique). The purchase of Portuguese national loans secured by the 
customs revenues of Angola was scheduled for July 1914. 130 Diplomatic circles 
already spoke of Germany’s “de facto preponderance” in Angola. 131 The out- 
break of the war prevented further steps in the direction of the dream of a Ger- 
man Mittelafrika. After the fighting between German and Portuguese troops 
had commenced in southern Angola in October and the Germans had destroyed 
the Portuguese border post Naulila in December 1914, most Germans living in 
Angola (their number is hard to establish) 132 were arrested. Many were accused 
of spying for an allegedly intended German invasion. After the war the Portu- 
guese confirmed that the Germans were first incarcerated on ships in Luanda. 133 
In 1917 fifty Germans and Austrians were deported to Lisbon. 134 In part, they 
were then transported to the Azores Island. However, after the war German im- 
migration resumed at a higher level than any time before. In 1934, around five 
hundred Germans lived in Angola, either as businessmen or farmers, “many in 
extremely sad conditions,” as the German consul, Fritz Bilfinger, commented. 135 
Following the coffee boom the situation improved considerably. It has been re- 


lated that up to fourteen hundred Germans settled in Angola before indepen- 
dence. A German school opened in Benguela. 136 After 1975 all but one, the 
farmer Eberhardt von Krosigk, left. 137 The history of the “cooperation” be- 
tween East-Germany and Angola’s mpla government in the 1980s is still to be 
researched. 138 

The Germans and the South Atlantic during the First World War 

All dreams for German dominance in the South Atlantic were terminated within 
a few months after the outbreak of hostilities. 

On 2 and 3 August 1914 Germany’s colonial secretary, Wilhelm Solf, sent 
wireless messages to the German colonies: “Appease settlers. No danger of 
war for the colonies.” He was later heavily criticized for this. 139 Within days it 
became evident that the colonies would indeed be drawn into the European war. 
To sustain its population of roughly fourteen thousand Europeans, gswa was 
dependent on imports from Germany and, especially for food imports, on the 
neighboring British Cape Colony. Imports from Germany were immediately 
blocked by the Royal Navy. The blockade proved right the German assumption 
that the “colonies must be defended in the North Sea.” When on 6 August 1914 
the British declaration of war became known in gswa, rumors spread that Por- 
tugal, Britain’s traditional ally, had also declared war on Germany. The governor 
of gswa, Theodor Seitz (1863-1949), therefore asked Berlin via wireless mes- 
sage about the relations with Portugal. He received the answer that there was 
no war with Portugal. Thus neutral Angola seemed to be the only possible 
source of (food) imports to gswa; all other neighboring colonies were part of 
the British empire. Seitz started an attempt to procure provisions in Angola via 
German traders. 140 However, these attempts failed. The Portuguese perceived 
the German emissaries as vanguards of an invading army and reacted violently. 
The German retaliation resulted in the above-mentioned fighting between Ger- 
man and Portuguese colonial troops in October and December 1914. 141 

While the Germans won against the Portuguese, their actions against the Al- 
lies on land and in the South Atlantic were less successful. The question of naval 
bases had always haunted the German Admiralty. Navy Secretary Tirpitz “had 
insisted as early as 1897 ‘that Commerce-raiding and transatlantic war against 
England is so hopeless, because of the shortage of bases on our side and the su- 
perfluity on England’s side.’” 142 Due to this shortage, the Germans resorted to 
secret measures. On the Brazilian island of Trindade they established a secret 


supply base to support their vessels in their commerce raiding missions along 
the South American coast. Also in Montevideo and Buenos Aires there were 
rumors in August 1914 that “the German Coal Company (Deutsches Kohlen 
Depot) was hoarding coal to supply a German cruiser squadron steaming in 
from the Pacific.” 143 However, the British navy detected the Germans on Trin- 
dade, and in battle on 14 September 1914 the British sunk the German armed 
merchant cruiser Cap Tra/algar. 144 

At around the same time the British begun to attack gswa not only from 
across the Orange River but also from the sea. In late September, British troops 
landed in Luderitzbucht. Soon thereafter, a British cruiser bombarded Swakop- 
mund that was evacuated afterward and occupied by the British in January 1915. 
Both harbors were equipped with wireless stations. Their destruction was an 
early British war aim, in order to prevent gswa from communicating with Ber- 
lin or any German vessels. However, also following the destruction in gswa 
the British were still concerned about Germany’s worldwide wireless network; 
especially as there were “rumors of wireless stations being erected on the south 
coast of Brazil by German sympathizers.” 145 The Germans had no means avail- 
able to defend their harbors in the South Atlantic against attacks from sea. As- 
sistance from Germany was not to be expected. Navy Secretary Tirpitz “was 
insisting as late as July 1914 that [the defense of the German colonies] was not 
the responsibility of the [German] navy.” 146 The German vessels that were in 
gswa’s waters in August 1914 had tried to reach neutral harbors in South Amer- 
ica and were escorted to that end by the only German war ship available. 147 After 
the bombardment and occupation of gswa’s harbors, the last remaining hope 
had been placed in the German Asiatic Fleet (Ostasiengeschwader) from Tsing- 
tao, China, under Vice-Admiral Maximilian Spee (1861-1914). The commander 
of the troops in gswa, Major Franlce promised a reward of one hundred marks 
to anyone who would signal to him the arrival of the Asiatic Fleet, with its more 
than two thousand men. 148 However, Spee failed to reach gswa. By means of a 
fake signal the cruisers of Count Spee had been lured toward the British battle- 
cruiser squadron waiting near the Port of Stanley Spee intended to attack. During 
the ensuing Battle of the Falkland Island on 8 December 1914 six out of Spee’s 
eight vessels were sunk by the superior British fleet. Following this disaster, the 
German navy had no more regular warships to continue commerce raiding on 
the high seas. The successes of the armed merchant vessels used as substitutes 
were “modest.” 149 Until the end of the war “the Allies maintained command of 


the sea over most of the world’s oceans.” 150 Governor Seitz of gswa surren- 
dered to the British in July 1915. 

The situation on the western coast of the South Atlantic was characterized 
not by combat but by an ensuing trade war between the British and the Germans 
whereas the governments of Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil stayed neutral for 
the time being. While cruisers hunted down enemy merchant ships in neutral 
waters, German trade in South America was not easily stopped by the British 
government. Instead, British companies continued to transport German goods 
in 1914 in fear of commercial losses. The head of the Harrison Steamship Line, 
for example, responded to the admiralty in December 1914 that “British ships 
would have to abandon the whole of the Brazilian trade if they refused to carry 
for such German firms.” Still in 1915 “shipowners, bankers, and the Board of 
Trade proved powerful opponents of commercial warfare in South America.” 151 
Soon thereafter, the Foreign Office and its War Trade Advisory Committee “de- 
manded [a trade] war against the Germans of South America.” The (legal) mea- 
sures were also to be applied in “the Portuguese and Spanish colonies in Africa” 
blacklisting “enemy firms” and individuals to prevent Britons to enter into busi- 
ness with them. 152 As a result, Germany’s “remarkable . . . commercial pene- 
tration of South America was nipped in the bud by the World War.” 153 

Starting in June 1917 the United States established “a South Atlantic patrol 
force based on Brazil, and assumefd] responsibility for patrolling the waters 
of a coastal strip running from Natal [South Africa] to the La Plata estuary.” 154 
Considering, however, that Germany focused its unrestricted submarine war- 
fare on the European theater of war, “Allied naval activities in the South Atlantic 
soon looked distinctly marginal.” 155 When German U-boats continued to sink 
Brazilian ships this not only sparked off anti-German riots in Rio de Janeiro and 
other cities. It also caused the Brazilian government to brake off relations with 
Germany in April 1917 and to declare war on Germany in October. Also, other 
South American states broke off relations with Germany. Only Argentina pre- 
served its neutrality, despite the sinking of Argentine ships and the embarrass- 
ing “Luxburg affair”: in September 1917, us Secretary of State Robert Lansing 
(1864-1928) ordered the publication of three intercepted dispatches from the 
German minister in Buenos Aires, Karl von Luxburg (1872-1956), who had called 
the Argentine foreign minister an “anglophile ass” and urged that certain Ar- 
gentine ships should be destroyed without a trace (spurlos versenken). Luxburg 
was dismissed and anti-German riots erupted; the German club in Buenos Aires 


was sacked. At the end of the First World War Germany’s popularity in the re- 
gion was at a low ebb. 156 


The transatlantic relationship has been described as “one of the most dynamic 
of modern times.” 157 Generally, this characterization is no doubt true. Also on 
a geographically more specific scale the South Atlantic has been the scene of 
most dynamic interactions, in particular between the Portuguese colonies. How- 
ever, a German equivalent is not discernible. The advent of German colonialism 
in the South Atlantic did not alter meaningfully the characteristic lines of traf- 
fic. While individuals from German speaking lands were — from earliest time 
onward — part of the intricate web of transatlantic connections, they used the 
preexisting means of traffic. On German contemporary maps the “vertical” 
north-south connections dominated along both coasts. There are barely “hori- 
zontal” east-west connections. Those who wanted to travel from Africa to Brazil 
had to do so via Cape Town and Ascension Island, or from Luanda, Monrovia, 
or Dakar. 158 The transoceanic mobility across the South Atlantic by Germans 
awaits further research. One example for an exemption of a direct link between 
gswa and South America occurred during the colonial war of 1904-1908: the 
German military turned to Argentina for the delivery of horses since the war 
necessitated urgent reinforcements. Similar connections had been created by 
the Portuguese, who had imported horses from Brazil to Angola for military 
purposes. 159 

While there are different attempts to relate the regional history of the (South) 
Atlantic from a specific national point of views (traditionally the Portuguese, but 
the French 160 or Dutch 161 perspectives have also been included), any effort to 
provide the same density of analysis and research for a “German South Atlantic” 
inevitably leads to the conclusion that such history can only be related as part 
of a transnational history — the “Atlantic World” remained a “shared space.” 
The German participation in the life along South Atlantic shores is one element 
of this greater history. 162 Research on German elements of the history of the 
South Atlantic draws interest to the repercussions and interdependencies across 
national or regional boundaries. The tensions between Brazil and Argentina 
during the First World War due to their opposing notions of Germany as friend 
or foe can serve as one example for these repercussions. 



When the German state rather suddenly appeared as an independent actor in 
the area the balance of power changed not necessarily because of what German 
colonialism implemented (the economic and demographic results were rather 
weak) but because of what British and Portuguese politician thought their Ger- 
man counterparts intended to do. The Germans in Germany as well as those in 
the colonies did little to alleviate these concerns about German expansionism. 
Reactions in Angola to German requests for food deliveries in 1914 clearly show 
the poor reputation of Germany. Here as everywhere on the globe, German as- 
pirations for greatness and parity with the “Great Powers” met with vested in- 
terests and traditions of those German expansionists wanted to emulate and 
succeed. The notion that “the Germans arrived too late” (especially in compari- 
son with their aspirations) was based on the impression that Germans as “power 
brokers” were a new phenomenon in the region. Politically and economically 
the “claims” had been staked out already between the South Atlantic neighbor- 
ing countries. Therefore, Germany’s economic growth in the region during the 
last quarter of the nineteenth century in connection with its colonial sovereignty 
in gswa seemed to be menacing. A German southern Africa was just as phan- 
tasmal as a German state in southern Brasil. However, Germany’s South Atlan- 
tic neighbors aimed at excluding any possibility for attempting to realize such a 
fantasy. The First World War made evident that Imperial Germany had made no 
friends in the region. 


1. Sheehan, “What Is German History?,” 4; Wehler, “Transnationale Geschichte — 
der neue Konigsweg historischer Forschung?”; cf. O’Reilly, “Atlantic World and Ger- 
many,” 46. 

2. Cf., e.g., Adam, Germany and the Americas, xvii; Maischak, German Merchants in the 
Nineteenth-Century Atlantic. 

3. On the term “systeme sud-atlantique,” see Alencastro, “Leversantbresilien,” 340; 
on the historiography of “Atlantic history,” see O’Reilly, “Atlantic World and Germany,” 
37 (“Atlantic history is both inter-imperial and intra-imperial”: ibid., 40). 

4. Samson, “Review of Klaus Dodds, Pink Ice: Britain and the South Atlantic Empire, 

5. An early example of this expression is Tengall, “A Study in Military Leadership.” 

6. Ute Schneider, “Tordesillas 1494.” On the Portuguese attempts to keep secret the 
discovery of Brazil and a possible history of “O Brasil antes de 1500” see Correa da Costa, 



Bresil, les silences de I’histoire, 120-125; Zechlin, “Das Problem der vorkolumbianischen 
Entdeckung Amerikas und die Kolumbusforschung.” 

7. Hebert, “America,” 31. 

8. Ibid., 30. 

9. Dym and OfFen, “The Colonial Period,” 20. 

10. Hebert, “America,” 32. 

11. “Man fart auch hinder Hispanien [which included “Portugall”] hinaull gegen den 
neiiwen inseln Americam/Spagnola/Jucatanam und der gleichen.” Munster, Cosmocjraphia, 
xxviii. See also Wessel, Von einem, der daheim blieb, die Welt zu entdecken. 

12. Munster, Cosmographia, xxviii. Map: “Die neiiwe Inselen zu unsern Zeiten durch 
die Kiinig von Hispania im groften Oceano gefunden sindt.” 

13. Wallisch, Der Mundus Nouus des Amerigo Vespucci. 

14. Vespucci and his men “erreichten das land das man Besilicam nempt . . . / und 
do fandt er leut in einer inseln die waren boeser dan die wilden thier.” Munster, Cosmo- 
graphia, 5 :dcclxxii. On cannibalism see Bennassar and Marin, Histoire du Bresil 1500-2000 , 

15. The Portuguese who “umbfahren das gantz Africam von Lisbona bift gehn Cali- 
cuth unnd vonn Calicuth wider bill . . . Portugall.” “Die inner landschafft [of Africa] ist 
bill auff den heiitigen tag noch nit allenthalben bekannt worden”; Munster, Cosmocjra- 
phia, dcclxxv. 

16. “Ist es doch nichts gegen den schiffungen die jetzundt geschehen” during his 
lifetime to bring “gewiirz unnd specerey fur das gantz Europam.” Munster, Cosmocjraphia, 
xxvii, map: “Africa, Libya, Morland, mit alien kiinigreichen so zu unsern zeiten darin 
gefunden warden.” 

17. “Aber es hat sich erfunden / das dise schiffung den Teiitschen / Frantzosen / En- 
gellendern / Denmaerckern / etc. grollen schaden thut.” The Portuguese block “die strall 
in India / sunder sie macht auch dall das gewurtz zu unl$ kompt mit einem groften gewin 
der Portugalleser unnd unsern mercldichen schaden. Dann was gut ist behalten sie / und 
das nichts sol verkauffen sie uns auff das teiiwrest.” The Portuguese “suchen von disem 
scheyn iren groften nutz.” Munster, Cosmocjraphia, Ixxxviii. 

18. “Sie [die Neue Welt, ist] der breite nach dieser Zeit noch nicht gar erkundigt.” 
“Bresilien so liber den equinoctial im Mittag gelegen, hat der Koenig von Portugal inne.” 
See Meurer, “Der neue Kartensatz von 1588 in der Kosmographie Sebastian Miinsters,” 

19. Schreiber, Atlas Selectus, map: “Africa verfertiget von J. G. Schreibern in Leipzig.” 

20. “Wiiste Hochebene”: Stieler, Hand Atlas, map: “Afrika.” 

21. Examples in Angola are Sao Salvador, Sao Philippe de Benguella, and Sao Paulo 
de Luanda. 



22. Schwabe and Prevosts, “L’Histoire General e des Voyages,” map by Jacques Nico- 
las Beilin, “Karte von dem Mittaeglichen Meere”; see Ferreira, Cross-Cultural Exchange in the 
Atlantic World. 

23. Staden, Warhajtige Historia; Duffy and Metcalf, The Return o/Hans Staden. 

24. Gonsalves de Mello, “Cristovao Rausch”; contemporary Olinda was also included 
in the collection of city views ofMeissner, Sciographia Cosmica: see Kupferstich: “Olinda de 

25. Quoted in Jurgen Schneider, “Le Bresil,” 14-15. 

26. Hunsche “Deutscher Beitrag zum Aufbau Brasiliens,” 14-16, referring to Ober- 
acker, Der Deutsche Beitrag zum Aufbau der brasilianischen Nation; on the arguments about “Ger- 
man labor” in Brazil see Conrad, Glob alisierung und Nation im Deutschen Kaiserreich, 264-267. 

27. Ave-Lallement, Viagem pelo sul do Brasil no anno de 1858. 

28. Conrad, Globalisierung und Nation, 178. 

29. Santos, “Historical Roots of the ‘Whitening’ of Brazil,” 69. 

30. Ibid., 68. 

31. Bideau and Nadalin, “Etude de la fecondite d’une communaute evangelique lu- 
therienne a Curitiba (Bresil) de 1866 a 1939,” 1037. 

32. Santos, “Historical Roots of the ‘Whitening’ of Brazil,” 72; 79, referring to Nilo 

33. Bideau and Nadalin, “Etude de la fecondite d’une communaute evangelique lu- 
therienne a Curitiba (Bresil) de 1866 a 1939,” 1037. 

34. Santos, “Historical Roots of the ‘Whitening’ of Brazil,” 66, quoting the federal 
deputy Joaquim Nabuco. 

35. Ibid., 62; cf. Alencastro, “Le versant bresilien,” 378-379. 

36. Meding, “Von der Heydt’sches Reskript (Heydt Edict) and Brazil,” 1105-1106. 

37. Mortara, “The Development and Structure of Brazil’s Population,” 138. The Ger- 
mans counted only among the “smaller contingents.” The foreign immigration reached 
its peak in the decade prior to 1900 with 1,125,000 immigrants, and again in the interwar 
decade, 1920-1930, with 835,000 immigrants; see also the numbers quoted in Santos, 
“Historical Roots of the ‘Whitening’ of Brazil,” 69-70, for the period 1884-1939; and 
Bideau and Nadalin, “Etude de la fecondite d’une communaute evangelique lutherienne 
a Curitiba (Bresil) de 1866 a 1939,” 1038, for the period 1819-1970. 

38. Bideau and Nadalin, “Etude de la fecondite d’une communaute evangelique lu- 
therienne a Curitiba (Bresil) de 1866 a 1939,” 1037-1038, tableau 1. 

39. Nichols and Snyder, “Brazilian Elites and the Descendants of the German, Italian, 
and Japanese Immigrants,” 321-344; Bennassar and Marin, Histoire du Bresil 1500-2000, 

40. Mortara, “The Development and Structure of Brazil’s Population,” 121-122. 



41. Willems, Assimilagao e populates marginal no Brasil, 56-57. 

42. Bideau and Nadalin, “Etude de la fecondite d’une communaute evangelique lu- 
therienne a Curitiba (Bresil) de 1866 a 1939,” 1055. 

43. Schoonover, “Central American Commerce and Maritime Activity in the Nine- 
teenth Century,” 164; see also Hensel, “Die Handelsbeziehungen Preussens und des Zoll- 
vereins zu Brasilien 1815-1870.” 

44. Jurgen Schneider, “Le Bresil,” 31. 

45. Clarence F. Jones, “The United States and Its Chief Competitors in South Ameri- 
can Trade,” 428. 

46. Smith, “Britain and the Brazilian Naval Revolt of 1893-4,” I 7 ^- 

47. Article 4 II, “Traite de commerce et de navigation entre 1 ’Allemagne et le Portu- 
gal, 2.3.1872,” in Martens, Nouueau Recueil General deTraites, 19:501. 

48. Mauro, “Recent Works on the Political Economy of Brazil in the Portuguese Em- 
pire,” 95, referring to the research of Fernando A. Novais. 

49. Brunn, Deutschland und Brasilien (1889-1914), 232-273; Fluck, Die Entiuicklung der 
deutsch-brasilianischen Handelsbeziehungen uon 1871-1939; Clarence F. Jones, “The United 
States and Its Chief Competitors in South American Trade,” 410. 

50. Conrad, Globalisierung und Nation, 232-233. 

51. Ibid., 238; see also Srbilc, Die Ausioanderungsgesetzgebung. 

52. Griinder, Geschichte der deutschen Kolonien, 106-107, quoting Robert Janasch (Kolo- 
nialkongress 1902). 

53. See, e.g., the denial of Germany’s ambassador to the United States: Speck von 
Sternburg, “The Phantom Peril of German Emigration and South-American Settlements”; 
the German ambassador to Great Britain, Count Metternich, remarked in 1894 “that Bra- 
zil appeared as if it were breaking into several republics and that this result ‘might be 
welcome to the United States, but it would not be favourable to European commercial 
interests.’” Quoted in Smith, “Britain and the Brazilian Naval Revolt of 1893-4,” J 79 - 

54. On these subjects see the classical texts of Hell, “Die Politik des Deutschen Rei- 
ches zur Umwandlung Siidbrasiliens in ein iiberseeisches Neudeutschland (1890-1914)”; 
Brunn, Deutschland und Brasilien (1889-1914); Gertz, Operigo alemao. 

55. Santos, “Historical Roots of the ‘Whitening’ of Brazil,” 67. 

56. See, e.g., the tragic descriptions of the “brasilianisches Fieber” in Pollack, Kaiser 
uon Amerika, 212-223. 

57. Willems, Assimilagao e populates marginais no Brasil, 116. 

58. However, it must be emphasized that the notion of Southern separatism dates 
back to nineteenth-century historians. See Jurgen Schneider, “Le Bresil,” 10, 23 (referring 
to Joao Ribeiro and his characterization of Brasilian regions: “dans la region de 1 ’Amazo- 
nie et dans le Rio Grande une volonte de separation, du a un sentiment d’abandon”). 



59. Gertz, “Brasil e Alemanha,” 131, referring to Romero, 0 alemanismo no sul do Brasil. 

60. Nichols and Snyder, “Brazilian Elites and the Descendants of the German, Ital- 
ian, and Japanese Immigrants,” 329, 338-341; most famously, Willems, Assimilagao e pop- 
ulates marginals no Brasil; Bennassar and Marin, Histoire du Bre'sil 1500-2000, 294. 

61. E.g., Ilg, Pioniere in Argentinien, Chile, Paraguay und Venezuela; Liitge, Hoffmann, 
Korner, and Klingenfuss, Deutsche in Argentinien 1520-1980; Fromm, Ulrich Schmid! — 
Landsknecht, Geschichtsschreiber und Mitbegriinder von Buenos Aires. 

62. Keim, Ulrich Schmidls Erlebnisse in Siidamerika; Bremer, Unter Kannibalen. 

63. Correa da Costa, Bresil, Ies silences de I’histoire, 15-40. 

64. Parish, Buenos Ayres and the Provinces of the Rio de la Plata, 337, 342. 

65. Dodds, Pink Ice, 37-38; see also Platt, Latin America and British Trade, 1806-1914. 

66. Halsey, Investments in Latin America and the British West Indies, 23-24. 

67. Rippy, “German Investments in Argentina,” 54n27. 

68. Halsey, Investments in Latin America and the British West Indies, 25. 

69. Rippy, “German Investments in Argentina,” 53. 

70. Dehne, “From ‘Business as Usual’ to a More Global War,” 518-519. 

71. Ibid., 517. “In the early twentieth century, the British of South America probably 
numbered fewer than one hundred thousand on the whole continent”; Newton, German 
Buenos Aires, 1900-1933. 

72. Saint Sauveur-Henn, Un siecle d’e'migration allemande vers ^Argentine 1853-1945, 53, 
56; see also Saint Sauveur-Henn, “Landwirtschaftliche Kolonisation deutsch-jiidischer 
Emigranten in Argentinien, 1933-1945”; Saint Sauveur-Henn, “Die deutsche Einwande- 
rung in Argentinien, 1870-1933”; and Saint Sauveur-Henn, “Lateinamerika als Zuflucht.” 

73. Rippy, “German Investments in Argentina,” 51; Nugent, Crossings; number of im- 
migrants to Brazil and Argentina, 1919-1932, in Adam, Germany and the Americas, 30. 

74. Jefferson, Peopling the Argentine Pampa, 193, 66; Saint Sauveur-Henn, Un siecle 
d’e'migration, 252. 

75. Potash, The Army and Politics in Argentina, 1928-1945, 4. 

76. Healy, “Admiral William B. Caperton and United States Naval Diplomacy in 
South America, 1917-1919,” 302. 

77. Heyden, Rote Adler an Ajrikas Kiiste; Klosa, Die Brandenburgische-Ajricanische Com- 
pagnie in Emden. 

78. Grunder, Geschichte der deutschen Kolonien, 82. 

79. Kolbe, Caput Bonae Spei Hodiernum d. i. vollstandige Beschreibung des ajrikanischen Vor- 
geburges der guten Hojhung; see Guelke, “The Anatomy of a Colonial Settler Population,” 
453 - 473 - 

80. Hintrager, Geschichte von Siidajrika, 493, 233, 335; see Schnell, For Men Must Work; 
Laband, “From Mercenaries to Military Settlers,” 85-86. 


81. Hintrager, Geschichte uon Siidajrika, 467; see also Bank, “The Great Debate and the 
Origins of South African Historiography,” 272: “Any future hopes of seeing ‘knowledge 
and talent flourish’ were to rely not on African indigenes, but on ‘the South Africans, a 
mixed multitude [of Dutch, French, Germans or New- Britons, and as such they all derive 
from the Old-German Stock. This race of men . . . has evinced a native excellence and a 
disposition for whatever is great and noble. Inured to fatigue and nerved by hardships of 
the North, they have changed the face of nature, and have transformed the wilderness 
into abodes of delight and plenty.’” 

82. Hintrager, Geschichte uon Siidajrika, 508 (map: South Africa 1921). 

83. Van-Helten, “German Capital, the Netherlands Railway Company and the Politi- 
cal Economy of the Transvaal 1886-1900,” 376. 

84. Ibid., 375. German-South African trade in 1897, £1,054,226; British-South Afri- 
can trade in 1897, £14,778,017. 

85. Van-Helten, “German Capital, the Netherlands Railway Company and the Politi- 
cal Economy of the Transvaal 1886-1900,” 376, 387, 389. 

86. Lugan, La guerre des Boers 1899-1902, 256-263; Dedering, “The Ferreira Raid of 
1906”; Teulie, Les Afrikaners et la guerre Anglo-Boer (1899-1902). 

87. Fauvelle Aymar, Histoire de I’Afrique du Sud, 298-299. 

88. Dedering, Hate the Old and Follow the New; Triiper, Die Hottentottin: Das kurze Leben der 
Zara Schmelen [The Invisible Woman: Zara Schmelen] . 

89. Hartmann, “Early Dutch-Namibian Encounters,” 9-19. 

90. Berat, Waluis Bay. 

91. Leon, “The Conference at Berlin on the West-African Question,” 135. 

92. Young, The Ajrican Colonial State in Comparative Perspective, 103 ; see Speitkamp, Deut- 
sche Kolonialgeschichte, 30-35; Canis, BismarcksAussenpolitiki870-i890, 222, 224. 

93. Tiebel, Die Entstehung der Schutztruppengesetzejiir die deutschen Schutzgebiete, 62, 75-78; 
Kaulich, Die Geschichte von Deutsch-Siidivestajrika, 204ff.; 217-218; Bley, Namibia under Ger- 
man Rule, 27-43. 

94. Kleiner Deutscher Kolonialatias hg. v. der Deutschen Kolonialgesellschajt, Annex: “Bemer- 
kungen zu den Karten DSWA no. 5. The remainders were mostly British nationals or 
Boers. There were almost no women from Germany at the time. 

95. Sprigade and Moisei, Deutscher Kolonialatias mitjahrbuch, 12. 

96. Verlust has a double meaning in this context depending on the pronounciation: 
“loss” in German and “becoming Brazilian” — the German prefix ver- connected with the 
Portuguese luso. See Willems, Assimila^ao e populates marginais no Brasil, 116-117. 

97. Kundrus, Moderne Imperialisten, 183-201; Axter, “Die Angst vor dem Verkaffern — 
Politiken der Reinigung im deutschen Kolonialismus.” 

98. Torp, Die Herausforderung der Globalisierung, 31, 78. 



99. Brunschwig, L 'expansion Allemande Ou tre-Mer du XVe siecle a nos jours, 188. 

100. Birmingham, “Slave City: Luanda through German Eyes,” 79n5. 

101. Birmingham, “Carnival at Luanda,” 94. 

102. Heintze, Deutsche Forschungsreisende in Angola, 12, 91. 

103. Brun, SchijfjFahrten, quoted in Heintze, Deutsche Forschuncjsreisende, 146-152; cf. 
Jones, “Samuel Brun’s Voyages of 1611-1620,” 44-96. 

104. Johann Paul Augspurger, Kurtze und wahrhaffte Beschreibung der See-Reizen von Am- 
sterdam in Holland nacher Brasilien in America, und Angola in Africa. Vom 4. Nouembris 1640. bifi 
lo.Julii 1642 (Schleusingen: Joh. Michael Schalln, 1644), quoted in Heintze, Deutsche For- 
schungsreisende, 96-99. 

105. S.v. “Georg Markgraf,” in Adam, Germany and the Americas, 7 21. 

106. Birmingham, “Slave City: Luanda through German Eyes,” 92; see also Heintze, 
Deutsche Forschungsreisende, 378-380; about contemporary Luanda, see Curto, “The Anat- 
omy of a Demographic Explosion: Luanda 1844-1850.” 

107. Bastian, Ein Besuch in San Salvador, der Hauptstadt des Konigreichs Congo. 

108. Heintze, Deutsche Forschungsreisende, 105-106. 

109. Ibid., 200-201, 13. 

no. De Castro, March 1866, quoted and translated in Corrado, Creole Elite, 18 n. 18. 

in. Mattenldodt, A Fugitive in South West Africa igo8 to 1920; Mattenklodt, Verlorene 
Heimat; Mattenklodt, Affikanische Jagden und Abenteuer. 

112. Wissmann, Unter deutscher Flagge quer durch Afrika. 

113. Article 4 II, Traite de commerce et de navigation entre 1 ’Allemagne et le Portugal, 
2.3.1872, in Martens, Nouveau Recueil General de Trades, 19:501; Leon, “The Conference at 
Berlin on the West-African Question,” 124. 

114. Politisches Archiv des Auswartigen Amts (PAAA) (Berlin): Luanda 1, betr. Ein- 
richtung, AA to Eisenlohr, London, 10 November 1813; AA to Consulate, Luanda, 13 De- 
cember 1813; Consulate Luanda to AA, 23 December 1813, 24.1. 14; German Envoy Lisbon 
to Consulate Luanda, 3 July 14. It was proposed by the German Foreign Office to decorate 
Prazeres for his service to the German empire. Eisenlohr supported the idea. However, 
according to the Portuguese constitution, Portuguese citizens were not allowed to accept 
foreign decorations. 

115. Young, The African State, 152. 

116. Birmingham, Carnival at Luanda, 100. 

117. PAAA, Luanda 4 (Politisches) Governor General to German Consul Luanda, 
4 August 1902. 

118. PAAA, Luanda 4 (Politisches) Otto Peters to German Consul Luanda, 20 June 

119. Canis, Von Bismarck zur Weltpolitik. 



120. Bixler, “Anglo-Portuguese Rivalry for Delagoa Bay,” 438. In 1872 the German 
government denied an attempt to purchase Delagoa Bay. 

121. Gooch and Temperley, British Documents on the Origins of the War, 1898-1914, 1:71- 
72, no. 90, sec. iv; 1:72-73, no. 91; 1:75, no. 93 — Ed. Note; Clarence-Smith, “Slavery in 
Coastal Southern Angola, 1875-1913,” 218: “The reis fell to about half of its value be- 
tween 1891 and 1898, but then recovered to just under par and maintained itself up to the 
First World War.” Bixler, “Angola-Portuguese Rivalry,” 440. 

122. Tschapek, Bausteine eines zukiinftigen deutschen Mittelajrika, 251-269. 

123. Stone, “The Official British Attitude to the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance, 1910-45,” 
729m. A Treaty of Alliance was first signed in 1373 and was repeatedly renewed. 

124. Gooch and Temperley, The End of British Isolation 1897-1904, 1:75, no. 93 — Ed. 
Note; 1:77, no. 96; 1:93, no. 118. 

125. See Gooch and Temperley, British Documents on the Origins of the War, 1898-1914, 
6:651, no. 480; 6:664, no - 49°; 6:684, no - 5°6; 6:710, no. 532. The Germans also at- 
tempted to negotiate directly with the Portuguese to open a coaling station in the Azores 
Islands or in Madeira. Negotiations about the cessation or exchange of colonial territo- 
ries were not uncommon in the nineteenth century. In 1847 the distressed Portuguese 
Kingdom had suggested a possible cession to Great Britain of Madeira, but Prime Minis- 
ter Lord Palmerstone refused it. 

126. Vincent-Smith, “The Anglo-German Negotiations over the Portuguese Colonies 
in Africa, 1911-14,” 620, 623. 

127. Griinder, Geschichte der deutschen Kolonien, 103-106. 

128. Vincent-Smith, “The Anglo-German Negotiations over the Portuguese Colonies 
in Africa, 1911-14,” 627, 625. 

129. Southern, “German Border Incursions into Portuguese Angola prior to the First 
World War,” 6. 

130. Stone, “Official British Attitude,” 731. A contemporary account: Pimenta, Para 
a Historia das rela^aes entre Portugal e a Alemanha (1884-1914); see also regarding Pimenta: 
Torgal, Estados novos, estado novo, 2:90-91, 2:521. 

13 1. Vincent-Smith, “The Anglo-German Negotiations over the Portuguese Colonies 
in Africa, 1911-14,” 629. 

132. One member of the Comissao luso-allemao, Dr. Vageler, (under)estimated in 
1914 that there were thirty-odd “Angoladeutsche”: Bundesarchiv Berlin (BAB) R 1001/6634, 
p. 149; Vageler to RMW (10 November 1921), Annex 10 to “Memoire Allemand,” 23 May 
22; pp. 157, 154; Vageler to Governor ofGSWA (apx. November 1914). 

133. Portuguese “Whitebook,” 1919 (no. 180, p. 63), quoted in BAB R 1001/6635, P- 4 7> 
“Memoire du Gouvernement Allemand concernant Ies reclamations portugaises,” 1922. 



134. Archivo Historico Ultramarino (AHU) (Lisbon), MU DGC Angola, 5 a Rep., 
Pasta 5 (Cx 996), Campo de “Concentra^ao de Angola,” List of Prisoners, 16 September 
1917 [SAM 0998]. 

135. PAAA Luanda 1, betr. Konsulat Lobito, Consul Lobito to AA, 30 October 34, 
“viele in ausserst traurigen Verhaltnissen.” 

136. See Helbig, “Herzlichen Gliickwunsch, DHPS,” Alkjemeine Zeitung [Windhoek), 
16 January 2009. 

137. One rather uncritical article on Krosigk’s farmlife is riddled with colonial ste- 
reotypes: Klaubert, “Deutsche Farmer in Angola: Das Vermachtnis,” Frankfurter Allgemeine 
Zeitung, 27 June 12. 

138. For a “firsthand account” — the letters of an East German development aide 
worker (cooperant) and his wife to their family — see Ronge, Nach Siiden, nach Siiden; Doring, 
“Es geht um unsere Existenz”; Engel and Schleicher, Die beiden deutschen Staaten in Afiika; 
Schleicher and Schleicher, Die DDR im siidlichen Afiika. 

139. “Beruhigt Ansiedler: Kriegsgefahr fur die Kolonien besteht nicht”: see, e.g., 
Kloclcner in Kolonialkriegerbund, Unvergessenes Heldentum, 58. 

140. BAB R 1001/6634: 158, Report of Governor ret. Seitz (10 May 1921), Annex 13 to 
“Memoire Allemand,” 23 May 22. 

141. Zollmann, “L’affaire Naulilaa entre le Portugal et PAllemagne, 1914-1933”; Mor- 
lang, “Keine Schonung”; Stals, “Naulila,” 186; Pelissier, Les guerresg rises, 482-485; Pelis- 
sier, Les campagnes coloniales du Portugal 1844-1941, 262-265. 

142. Quoted in Kennedy, “The Development of German Naval Operations,” 72-73. 

143. Dehne, “From ‘Business as Usual,’” 526. 

144. Hilfskreuzer, “Cap Trafalgar,” in Der Kr ieg zur See 1914-1918, Teil 3: Der Kreuzerkrieg 
in den auslandischen Geiuassern, 3:26-38; Walter, Piraten des Kaisers — Deutsche Handelsstorer 
1914-1918, 47 - 51 - 

145. Baum, “German Political Designs with Reference to Brazil,” 597. 

146. Kennedy, “The Development of German Naval Operations,” 73. 

147. Eckenbrecher, Was Afiika mir gab und nahm, 167. 

148. Ibid., 179. 

149. Segesser, DerErsteWeltkrieg in globaler Perspective, 105; Meding, “Admiral Graf Spee,” 
45 - 47 - 

150. Stevenson, Cataclysm, 199. 

151. Quoted in Dehne, “From ‘Business as Usual,”’ 524-525. 

152. Dehne, “From ‘Business as Usual,”’ 531-532, 535. 

153. Clarence F. Jones, “The United States and Its Chief Competitors in South Amer- 
ican Trade,” 428. 



154. Healy, “Admiral William B. Caperton and United States Naval Diplomacy in South 
America, 1917-1919,” 298. 

155. Ibid., 309. 

156. Ibid., 298, 310; Luebke, Germans in Brazil, 1987; Doft, Das Auswartige Amt im Uber- 
gang vom Kaiserreich zur Weimarer Republik, 49095; “Esel und Englands Freund.” 

157. Kaufman, preface to Adam, Germany and the Americas, xvii; for a critical overview, 
see O’Reilly, “Atlantic World and Germany,” 35. 

158. Sprigade and Moisei, Deutscher Kolonialatlas mit Jahrbuch, map no. 2 (“Afrika”). 

159. Alencastro, “South Atlantic Wars,” 47. 

160. Marshall, The French Atlantic. 

161. Phaf-Rheinberger, The “Air of Liberty.” 

162. O’Reilly, “Adantic World and Germany,” 35. 



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jakob zollmann is research fellow at the Rule of Law Center of the Berlin Social 
Science Center. He studied history and law in Berlin, Paris, and San Francisco. His re- 
search focuses on the history of international law and colonial law. His recent publica- 
tions include “L’affaire Naulilaa entre le Portugal et 1 ’Allemagne, 1914-1933: Reflexions 
sur 1 ’histoire politique d’une sentence arbitrale international,” Journal of the History of 
International Law 15 (2013): 201-234; “Communicating Colonial Order. The Police of 
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“Escrever e para mim trabalho bracal” 

Cabral’s “O cao sem plumas” and the 
Brazilian Consulate in Barcelona, 1947-1950 

abstract: In this article, I document the thematic parallels between Joao Cabral 
de Melo Neto's landmark poem “O cao sem plumas,” published in 1949 while in Bar- 
celona, and his contemporaneous diplomatic experience there. In my analysis, I con- 
sider the specific cases adjudicated by Cabral at the consulate alongside the au- 
thor’s personal correspondence, conference addresses, interviews, and other primary 
source materials in order to further illuminate the enduring influence of this transi- 
tional period in his poetry. Specifically, I explore the correlation between the plight 
of many Spanish citizens and Brazilian expatriates facing the political oppression 
and economic destitution of Francoist Spain and the poet's newfound awareness of 
similar social conditions in Brazil as confessed in interviews and manifest in “O cao 
sem plumas.” 

keywords: Joao Cabral de Melo Neto,"0 cao sem plumas,” diplomacy. 

Esse trofo ficou mmto mal explicado. Mas tenho que escreuer entre urn teleqrama a cvfrar e 
passaportes a assinar. 

— Joao Cabral de Melo Neto, June 4, 1951 

Cabral entered diplomatic service on December 15, 1945. Less than two years 
later, on March 24, 1947, after spending the previous year in Rio, Cabral posted 
to Barcelona. He remained there until he was transferred to London on Septem- 
ber 27, 1950 (Brazil, Departamento de Administra^ao, Anuario 369 [hereafter 
cited as Anuario]). After two years in London, Cabral was placed on administra- 
tive leave by the Vargas administration because of his purported Communist 
activities (Anua'rio 370), but once reconstituted Cabral returned to Barcelona on 
March 14, 1956, for a period of about two years (Anua'rio 369). In the 1960s, he 



served in Seville, Madrid, and Cadiz (“Cronologia” 26-28), yet no diplomatic 
post was more crucial to the development of his poetry than his first. From 1947 
to 1950, as Cabral adjudicated immigration visas for large numbers of Spanish 
citizens and facilitated the repatriation of many destitute Brazilians, these expe- 
riences helped reshape Cabral’s conception of the function of poetry in society. 

The relevance of Spain to Cabral’s poetic transformation has been proposed 
by many literary critics. These critics have often emphasized Cabral’s exposure 
to Spanish poetic forms and visual arts as influential factors in the transforma- 
tion of his poetry. To cite a few examples, Benedito Nunes in Joao Cabral de Melo 
Neto (1971) divides Cabral’s poetry into two broad phases: the period before his 
first post in Spain, ending with the poem “Psicologia da composigao” (1947), 
and the poetry written afterward, beginning with “O cao sem plumas.” Similarly, 
Jon M. Tolman proposed that “Joao Cabral’s fascination with Spain is unique 
in modern Brazilian literature” (57). Even Cabral himself noted the influence of 
Spanish poetry in his work. In an interview with Tolman in 1972, he admitted 
that in Morte e vida severina he “jogfou] com formas tradicionais espanholas e 
brasileiras” (Tolman 67). Cabral also dedicated a number of poems specifically 
to Spain as a subject. Compilations such as Crime na cal le Relator (1985-1987) and 
Seuilha andando (1987-1993) stem from Cabral’s personal experiences in that 
country (Junqueira 474). Another work produced by Cabral that attests to his 
artistic engagement in Spain is his study of his friend Joan Miro, published in 

Yet despite Cabral’s obvious connections with Spain, the traditional critical 
approach, emphasizing his association with the Barcelonan artistic scene or the 
influence of Spanish poetic forms on his work, elides the importance of the 
actual politico-cultural experience that took Cabral to Spain in the first place — 
that of being a diplomat. The relationship between Cabral’s diplomatic career 
and his poetry (as is the case with most Brazilian writer-diplomats) has over the 
years by and large escaped the critical eye. Thus by considering Cabral’s poetry 
in light of his diplomacy, this article will provide new perspectives while sug- 
gesting previously unexplored avenues of research for the analysis of Cabral’s 
and other writer-diplomats’ works. This cultural mode of inquiry (which I also 
recently applied to Vinicius de Moraes’s “Patria minha”) explores the connec- 
tions — thematic, theoretical, and otherwise — between writing and diplomacy 
through a discussion of certain authors’ works within the context of their dip- 
lomatic experience, conceiving of literature as not only a product of individual 

essays Joshua A. Enslen 

genius, but also a cultural artifact whose meaning is in part interrelated with the 
social circumstances in which it was created. 1 

In the late 1930s, approximately a decade prior to Cabral’s arrival in Barcelona, 
Francisco Franco (1892-1975) had emerged from the Spanish Civil War (1936- 
1939) as the head of a newly organized authoritarian state. Franco’s dictatorial 
policies had already caused considerable political and economic difficulties for 
Barcelona by the time Cabral arrived in 1947. In Franco’s authoritarian Spain, 
Catalonian autonomy, officially established in the early 1930s as the Second Re- 
public of Catalonia (1931-1936), was vanquished. Franco had also imposed 
oppressive measures in Catalonia as well as in the Basque region in an attempt 
to secure the sovereignty of his regime. Thus to the poor postwar economic sit- 
uation that affected Spain generally, in Barcelona, was added the imposition of 
strict policies, negatively affecting the lives of thousands in the region. In his in- 
terview with Tolman, Cabral comments on how “O cao sem plumas” was born 
from this desperate reality: “Em Espanha aprendi que em Pernambuco, minha 
terra, 0 nivel de mortandade infantil estava mais alto e a renda per capita estava 
abaixo da da India. Abalado com a consciencia da situa^ao e vivamente impres- 
sionado com a miseria da Espanha de pos-guerra, comecei a elabora^ao de uma 
expressao poetica que tomasse em conta a realidade regional brasileira. As sem- 
elhan^as entre as mesetas centrais espanholas e o Sertao brasileiro facilitavam 
0 ressurgimento do Nordeste em minha poesia. O resultado foi ‘O cao sem 
plumas’” (67). Similarly, in an interview with Vinicius de Moraes, Cabral spoke 
of his new perspectives gained in Barcelona and his subsequent rejection of 
previous work: “Depois, compreendi que aquilo era um beco sem safda, que 
poderia passar o resto da vida fazendo desses poeminhas amaveis, requintados, 
dirigisos [sic] especialmente a certas almas muito sutis. Foi dai que resolvi dar 
meia-volta e enfrentar esse monstro: o assunto, ou tema. ‘O cao sem plumas,’ 
meu livro seguinte, escrito em Barcelona, foi a consequencia” (Moraes). 2 In 
these interviews, Cabral clearly conveys a strong connection between his inter- 
national experience in postwar Spain and his resultant poetic transformation. 
This epiphanic moment was catalyzed not only by the discovery of startling 
information regarding his home state, but also by the similarities in living con- 
ditions and geography between Spain and the sertao. 

In earlier poems, such as “Psicologia da composi^ao” (1947), Cabral had ne- 
glected any intersubjective perspective of reality in favor of the inanimate solitude 
of metapoetical composition, articulated as “a fria natureza da palavra escrita” 


(“Psicologia” 96). Prior to “O cao sem plumas,” Cabral was only seeking to ex- 
press the ideals of “uma poesia sem espontanefsmos ou rompantes de sensibil- 
idade” (Castello 50). Maintaining his writing a safe distance from the temptation 
ofwhat he considered facile recourse to ego-bound “inspiration,” he exchanged 
inspiration’s muse for an imposing narrative point of view, molding reality to an 
omniscient consciousness (Tolman 57). In an exemplary verse from Psicologia da 
composiqio, Cabral communicates his surreal metapoetics with a metaphor typi- 
cal of his pre-Barcelonan work: “Sao minerals / as flores e as plantas, / as frutas, 
os bichos / quando em estado de palavra” (“Psicologia” 96). Through the power 
of the poet’s pen, “Psicologia da composigao” converts organic “flores,” “plan- 
tas,” “frutas,” and “bichos” into inorganic, minable, and inanimate “minerals. ” 

On the other hand, “O cao sem plumas” proposed a much more organic pro- 
cess. “O cao sem plumas” creates a “paisagem de anfibios / de lama e lama” 
(108) and the river region in which the poem’s subjects live becomes indiscern- 
ible from the subjects themselves. The metaphorical procedure in “O cao sem 
plumas” is thus no longer strictly metapoetical as it boasts a psychology that is 
immensely social, becoming no more a “psychology of composition,” but a psy- 
chology of humankind. As the river and the inhabitants along its banks fuse 
together, “lama” becomes as much the ecological life-force of the former as it is 
the protean origin of the latter. The organic is no longer reduced to the miner- 
al-like “estado de palavra”; rather, it attains, through an endless series of meta- 
phor, a state of constant flux: “Urn cao sem plumas / E quando uma arvore sem 
voz. / E quando de um passaro / Suas raizes no ar. / E quando alguma coisa roem 
tao fundo ate o que nao tern” (“O cao” 108). As the poet relinquishes control 
over the object poeticized, composition is no longer a perfectly impersonal pro- 
cess. The exchange created by this approach reinforces the dialogical aspects 
of Cabral’s poetry. It is in this indeterminate state “entre o que vive” (“O cao” 
114) that the individual and the national as well as the universal and the regional 
begin to “roer.” 

The poem “O cao sem plumas” is the first of many poems, such as “O rio” 
(1953) and Morte e uida seuerina (1954-1955), which evoke the imagery of the 
Capibaribe River. In these poems, Cabral traces the river’s course flowing from 
Pernambuco’s hinterland to the capital Recife as he also navigates sociopolitical 
questions such as those of citizenship and identity. Specifically, in “O cao sem 
plumas,” Cabral represents an oppressed minority — the poor inhabitants of the 
Capibaribe — within the broad politico-cultural panorama of Brazilian identity. 

essays Joshua A. Enslen 

As he does so, the nationalist projects of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries 
come to the fore. These projects in the democratic West proposed that theoret- 
ically the enfranchisement of the citizenry was defined by “competitive inter- 
actions between free, individual citizens” (Valente 13). But, for centuries, the Bra- 
zilian reality of citizenship, instead of emphasizing free interactions among 
constituents, had posited a stratified paternal system with the white European 
as the head (Valente 13). Such stratification inevitably resulted in the social and 
economic exclusion of darker-skinned lower classes; these are Cabral’s “homens 
plantados na lama” populating the banks of the river. As Cabral deals with the 
exclusion of these lower classes in “O cao sem plumas,” the juxtaposition of the 
nation’s liberal ideals (embodied by the diplomat) with the realities of life for its 
impoverished and disenfranchised citizens becomes apparent. 

Curiously, as “O cao sem plumas” was taking shape in Cabral’s mind, Cabral 
dealt daily with these same questions of poverty and exclusion as a diplomat 
in Spain. One such notable case is that of Octavio Medeiros. When Cabral first 
came in contact with him, Medeiros was a Brazilian expatriate born in Rio who 
had resided in Spain since 1919. He was married to a Spanish woman and had 
four children, all born in Spain (Brazil, Letter, January 19, 1947 [hereafter cited as 
“Letter” and by date]). 3 On July 24, 1947, three months after his arrival, Cabral’s 
consulate sent a telegram to Medeiros in Madrid. This telegram, kept in a vol- 
ume of the Barcelonan oficios from 1947 in the Arquivo Historico do Itamaraty, 
marks the inconclusive end to months of communication: “Cinco passagens 
reservadas Osbohornos [sic] partindo Barcelona quatro agosto queiram apre- 
sentar-se este consulado munidos passaportes devidamente autorizados” (Tele- 
dramas 1). At this time, Medeiros was seeking repatriation, since he, along with 
all other non-Spanish employees of the Patronato Nacional de Turismo (pnt), 
had been dismissed from his job for not accepting Spanish citizenship. The 
prospect of abandoning his Brazilian citizenship had not been appealing to Me- 
deiros. In a letter sent six months prior, Medeiros writes: “Como me repugnava 
a ideia de trocar uma Patria frondosa e pujante por outra ja velha, desgastada e 
de duvidosas perspectivas, resolvi abandonar aquele emprego e continuar a ser 
cidadao brasileiro” (Letter, January 19, 1947). Hinting at the internal conflicts 
plaguing Spain during the period, Medeiros explains in the same letter that he 
would rather remain Brazilian than to be gainfully employed as a Spaniard. But, 
after losing his job of eleven years with the pnt as an informador turistico, Me- 
deiros was, in January 1947, only meagerly employed. Even though he spoke six 


languages; had been a professor in Rio (a job he hoped to resume upon his re- 
turn); and had published a dramatic poem in Spanish entitled “El Portal de las 
Indias,” of which all three thousand copies had been escjotado, he was practically 
destitute. His economic woes were due to the scarcity of tutoring opportunities 
available to him, especially in the summer months, when school was not in ses- 
sion (Letter, January 19, 1947). At the end of this letter, Medeiros reveals the main 
reason for writing the Brazilian consulate: “Perdidas totalmente as esperangas 
de levantar cabega na Espanha, o unico caminho logico que se me apresenta e 
o da repatriagao, ja que no Rio se me abrem inumeras facilidades” (Letter, Janu- 
ary 19, 1947). 

One month after this letter, and still with no reply from the consulate, Me- 
deiros sends another message, “rog[ando] uma resposta” (Letter, February n, 
1947). In reply to this second letter, Osorio Dutra (1889-1968), then acting as 
the Consul Geral in Barcelona, responds: “Estou estudando minuciosamente 
0 seu caso” (Letter, February 19, 1947). But after another month passes with no 
further news, an even more desperate and diffuse Medeiros writes: “O verao 
de 1946 foi para minha familia horrivelmente tragico. Sem ligoes, unico esteio 
que me mantem, a situagao agrava-se de tal maneira que nao me vai ser possfvel 
vence-la outra vez com certo decoro porque este ano ja nao tenho absoluta- 
mente nada que vender para resistir ate a abertura dos novos cursos . . . Por 
tanto espero de sua salvadora intervengao 0 remedio eficaz e o ponto final de 
tantos males” (Letter, March 16, 1947). Even though, judging by the correspon- 
dence, Medeiros’s situation was dire, as we compare it to others found through- 
out the 1947 oflcios, his story becomes less the extraordinary tale of one stranded 
Brazilian seeking readmission into his native country and more the tale of an 
entire era in Spanish emigration to Latin America. Similar to hundreds of others 
in Catalonia desiring to reenter or emigrate to Brazil, Medeiros was flounder- 
ing in a region plagued by joblessness, drought, and political uncertainty. Of 
the many cases of immigration and repatriation that presented themselves for 
Cabral’s adjudication during this period, on November 5, 1949, there was a re- 
quest for immigration visas to Brazil by a group of 732 Spanish citizens, all res- 
idents of the Barcelona province, registered in a letter signed by the post’s new 
Consul Geral Argeu Guimaraes (Brazil, Proposta). In September 1949, near the 
end of Cabral’s stay in Barcelona, another group of 63 Barcelonan families in- 
quired into the possibility of a mass departure to the Brazilian state of Goias. 
These Spanish families had heard news that Goias was anxious to receive immi- 


essays Joshua A. Enslen 

grants who were willing to form farming communities there. Along with a list 
that states the name, age, and occupation of each family member requesting 
a permanent visa in Brazil, the letter sent by the consulate to the Ministro das 
Relagoes Exteriores conveys other specifics of the group’s request: “As famflias 
em questao desejam ser informados . . . quais as facilidades que o Governo de 
Goias esta disposto a conceder-lhes e, sobretudo, se o mesmo Governo Ihes 
podem fornecer uma garantia coletiva de manutengao e hospedagem ate defin- 
itiva instalagao no local que for indicado para sede da futura colonia, condigao 
indispensavel para obterem o ‘visto de saida’ por parte das autoridades espan- 
holas” (Brazil, Imigra^ao). Many expatriates, finding themselves in duress, also 
sought repatriation. The situation of Iracema and Clara Araes Vicente in April 
1947, described by the consulate as “sem recursos e passando provagoes,” was 
not out of the ordinary (Brazil, Repatriafdo, April 29, 1947). Similarly indicative 
is the case of Manoela Altero Crespo and her three children. In a letter written 
on April 24, 1950, the Consul Geral confirms the family’s repatriation: “Seguiu 
ontem para Santos, repatriado por este Consulado Geral, a brasileira Manoela 
Altero Crespo e tres filhos menores, que aqui se achavam em estado de indigen- 
cia” (Brazil, Repatriate), April 24, 1950). All of these people desired to relocate 
or return to Brazil in hopes of a brighter future, fleeing the stagnation of Spain. 

Beyond political and financial hardships, meteorological hardships also 
plagued Catalonia during the period in question. When Cabral states in his in- 
terview with Tolman that “as semelhangas entre as mesetas centrais espanholas 
e 0 Sertao brasileiro facilitavam 0 ressurgimento do Nordeste em minha poesia” 
(67), one can only imagine that the extended drought in Catalonia witnessed by 
him in 1949 as he was composing “O cao sem plumas” was one of these semel- 
han^as. In a letter dated February 10, 1949, the consulate in Barcelona submitted 
a report to the Ministerio das Relates Exteriores titled Situagao Hidro-eletrica de 
Catalunha. This report discloses that Catalonia’s hydroelectric energy reserves 
had been severely diminished, causing a number of blackouts in the region. In- 
cluded in the letter is a cutout of an article from the Dia'rio de Barcelona. The article 
verifies that “as reservas atuais sao praticamente nulas, contando-se somente 
com a energia fluente dos rios, cujos caudais se acham reduzidos a minima ex- 
pressao” (Brazil, Situa^ao 1). This observation that the rivers in Catalonia were 
“reduzidos a minima expressao” (Brazil, Situagao 1) not only recalls Cabral’s 
comment to Tolman but also brings to mind one of the opening stanzas of “O 
cao sem plumas”: “Aquele rio / era como um cao sem plumas. / Nada sabia da 


chuva azul, da fonte cor-de-rosa, / da agua do copo de agua, / da agua de can- 
taro, dos peixes de agua, / da brisa na agua” (105). 

The relevance of drought to both Catalonia and the Brazilian Northeast be- 
comes increasingly more important when we consider the river as poetic meta- 
phor. The Capibaribe is not only metonymic of, but also inseparable from, the 
way of life of the men and women who inhabit its shores. This metaphor helps 
us understand how “O cao sem plumas” is not merely an important poem in 
Cabral’s canon that just happened to be written while in Barcelona, but rather a 
poem whose imagery and thematic content directly parallel the author’s experi- 
ences there. 

Not unlike the many Brazilian retirantes from the Northeast seeking better 
lives in the nation’s urban centers of the Southeast, the Spanish envisioned emi- 
gration to Brazil as an escape from diverse hardships. Yet, for the thousands who 
had applied, as an expatriate or an immigrant, the situation was bureaucrati- 
cally complex. Whereas we know that at least 795 people applied to immigrate 
to Brazil in 1949 (Brazil, Proposta), according to the final “Quadro Estatfstico” 
that year, only fifty-six “vistos em passaportes estrangeiros” were given in De- 
cember, contributing to a total of just 487 for the year. Likewise, the “Quadro” 
reports that only nine repatriations were granted in 1949 (Brazil, “Quadro”). A 
letter from the Brazilian consulate in Barcelona to the Ministerio das Relagoes 
Exteriores in Brazil further characterizes the difficulties of immigration. Writ- 
ten on August 13, 1948, the letter reveals that, “de fato, e bem grande o numero 
de trabalhadores espanhois desejosos de fixar-se no Brasil e impossibilitados 
de faze-lo” (Brazil, Emigragdo). Both potential immigrants and repatriates were 
challenged by the complex politics of both nations. On one hand, Brazil had 
severely limited the number of permanent visas available for Spanish citizens. 
And, on the other, Spain had further encumbered the process by requiring a 
“visto de saida” (Brazil, Emigragdo 2). 

On the March 17, 1947, as Osorio Dutra continued to study Medeiros’s case, 
the consulate received further information from the Brazilian embassy in Ma- 
drid. “Octavio de Medeiros reside em Espanha como cidadao brasileiro, sendo 
filho de pai portugues e mae brasileira” (Letter, March 17, 1947). Yet Dutra 
deemed the information insufficient to authorize Medeiros and his family’s pas- 
sage to Brazil. From the start, Dutra had been skeptical of Medeiros’s claim to 
citizenship. On March 22, 1947, he writes to Medeiros requesting more docu- 
mentation, “afim de estudar devidamente seu caso, rogo a V.S. informar-me . . . 

essays Joshua A. Enslen 

qual e o documento existente em seu poder, comprobatorio de sua nacionali- 
dade” (Letter, March 22, 1947). The letter also requested to know if “o certifi- 
cado de matricula lhe foi dado regularmente e anualmente renovado, como e 
obrigatorio, para que lhe fosse possivel conservar os seus direitos a nacionali- 
dade brasileira” (Letter, March 22, 1947). Medeiros responds in a letter dated 
March 28, 1947, that “documentagao suficiente com retratos, assignaturas, im- 
pressoes digitais e demais datos [sic]” was located at the Brazilian embassy in 
Lisbon (Letter, March 28, 1947). Then Medeiros demonstrates his obvious frus- 
tration with the situation: “Entao, um brasileiro que nao tomou carta de natu- 
ralizagao noutro pafs ?deixa [sic] alguma vez de ser brasileiro? Si e assim, ?de 
[sic] que me serviu renunciar ao cargo de informador do Turismo espanhol para 
nao despresar [sic] a minha nacionalidade de origem? Bastaria esse facto indis- 
cutivel para reforgar os meus direitos de brasileiro, mais valioso, creio eu, ante 
o nosso governo, que uma simples inscripgao em qualquer Consulado” (Letter, 
March 28, 1947). Medeiros, choosing to maintain his national identity, could 
not feasibly remain in Spain and still secure the financial means to provide for 
his family. But the Brazilian consulate was unwilling to immediately accept him 
as a citizen because of his lack of proper documentation. For this reason, Me- 
deiros was being impeded from exercising his full rights, and his return to Bra- 
zil was in serious question. 

In the poem, the Capibaribe is depicted as it flows through Recife until it 
arrives at the Atlantic Ocean. Throughout this journey, the poem offers a bird’s- 
eye view of the many life-forms, human and otherwise, that surround and in- 
habit the river. This “kind of omniscient eye” (Tolman 57) binds the organic 
entities together through a series of metaphors. While speaking with Vinicius 
de Moraes, Cabral proposed the importance of these metaphors in the poem: 

— “O Cao sem Plumas” ja e o rio Capibaribe, nao e, Joao? 

— E 0 Capibaribe visto de fora. Mas a existencia do assunto e clara. 
Evidentemente a linguagem e ainda cifrada. A verdade e que naquela 
epoca eu nao me tinha libertado ainda do preconceito de que poesia e 
a transplantagao metaforica da realidade. Grandes trechos do “O Cao 
sem Plumas” sao construfdos com metaforas. (Moraes) 

Understanding the poem as “a transplantagao metaforica da realidade,” these 
marginalized individuals are similar to Medeiros. They are not only trapped by 
the physical margins of the river; they are also incapacitated by their social cir- 


cumstances (“O cao” 107). Similar to the river, Brazil gives Medeiros his cultural 
identity while denying him his concomitant political right of repatriation. In 
both cases, there is a sense of deterministic failure and frustration since the 
river possesses “algo da estagnagao do hospital, / da penitenciaria, dos asilos, / 
da vida suja e abafada / (de roupa suja e abafada) / por onde se veio arrastando” 
(“O cao” 107). These “homens plantados na lama” are, like the infirm of the 
“asilos” and the inmates of the “penitenciaria” on the outskirts of society, unable 
to find admission. Furthermore, like Medeiros, if they chose to uproot them- 
selves and move to some other region of Brazil in search of better possibilities, 
they would inevitably leave some intrinsic part of their identity behind: “Porque 
e na agua do rio / que eles se perdem / (lentamente e sem dente)” (“O cao” 109). 

The paradox of citizenship is that nations are not able to grant total individ- 
ual autonomy while also maintaining communal stability. The marginalization 
of some, to a degree, ensures an acceptable status quo for others. As a result, 
certain individuals or groups are unavoidably marginalized — whether explicitly 
by the law, as in the case of Medeiros, or by socioeconomic forces, as in the case 
of the impoverished of the Capibaribe. Cabral compares this social intercon- 
nectedness configured in Brazil through its rigid paternalism with the imagery 
of a river, wherein the fate of one is inevitably tied to the fate of others and the 
environment: “Na paisagem do rio / diffcil e saber / onde comega o rio; / onde 
a lama / comega do rio; / onde a terra / comega da lama; / onde o homem, / onde 
a pele / comega da lama; / onde comega o homem / naquele homem” (“O cao” 
no). As it becomes impossible to decipher the metaphorical point where the 
river ends and its inhabitants begin, it likewise becomes impossible to under- 
stand these river dwellers without inscribing them within the parameters of their 
subaltern position within the nation. 

Further developing the metaphor, Cabral summarizes the existential aspect 
of his compositional philosophy, which connects individual struggles to those 
of entire communities, regions, and nations. He describes the philosophical 
aims of portraying the archetypal realities of these destitute inhabitants: “Para 
mim, a realidade pernambucana, com toda sua angustia, nao e um problema 
que se propoe estudar e sim uma expressao individual que se tenta encaixar den- 
tro da problematica filosofica universal, numa linguagem poetica individual” 
(Tolman 67). Without question, “O cao sem plumas” captures the harsh social 
realities of the poor inhabitants of the shantytowns found along the shores of 
the Capibaribe. Looking beyond these shores, however, “O cao sem plumas” is 


essays Joshua A. Enslen 

the reading of an existential dilemma, seeking a common thread that courses 
through humankind while also profoundly echoing the author’s experiences 
in Spain. In the words of the poem: “Junta-se o rio / a outros rios” (113). For 
Cabral, “O homem, / porque vive, / choca com o que vive. / Viver / e ir entre o que 
vive” (114). 

On April 9, 1947, the consulate in Barcelona decided Medeiros’s case was far 
too complex for them to come to a decision on their own concerning his repa- 
triation. The consulate turned it over, with all pertinent correspondence, to the 
Secretaria de Estado das Relagoes Exteriores in Brazil. Enclosed as part of the 
package to the Secretaria is a copy of the letter to Madrid, dated April 2, 1947, 
in which Osorio Dutra confessed his misgivings about the case: “Como podera 
verificar Vossa Senhoria, o interessado gastou muita tinta para nada me dizer de 
concreto ou de positivo. O que se deduz das suas explicates, e que nao tern ele 
em seu poder atualmente nenhum documento comprobatorio da sua nacional- 
idade . . . Tratando se de um caso extremamente complexo . . . penso que o 
mais acertado sera leva-lo ao conhecimento da Secretaria de Estado das Relates 
Exteriores” (Letter, April 2, 1947). In the cover letter to the Secretaria, the con- 
sulate continued to display its misgivings by describing Medeiros as a “pessoa 
suspeita, cuja longa permanencia em Espanha foi sempre um tanto misteriosa” 
(Letter, April 9, 1947). 

One month after turning the case over to officials in Brazil, Cabral confirmed 
the receipt of a letter written on May 8, 1947, from the Lisbon consulate, com- 
municating that “o Senhor de Medeiros nao esta inscrito na matricula deste 
Consulado Geral, onde tambem nada consta a seu respeito” (Letter, April 9, 
1947). With this communique, it appeared that Dutra’s suspicions had been 
confirmed. But on May 27, 1947, Cabral confirmed the receipt of yet another 
letter from the Lisbon consulate, rectifying the previous letter by including 
Medeiros’s middle name: “Octavio Gon^alues de Medeiros esta aqui matriculado 
desde 23 de dezembro de 1915, tendo sido expedido em seu favor tres pass- 
aportes brasileiros em 1919, 1926 e 1935 . . . Fica, pois, esclarecida e justificada 
a situagao do Senhor Octavio Gon^alues de Medeiros perante este Consulado 
Geral” (Letter, May 27, 1947). Whether Medeiros and his family did in actuality 
board that ship on August 4, 1947, is not revealed in the Barcelona ojirios of the 
period. Yet such information is of little importance to the study at hand. What is 
important is that Medeiros’s Brazilian identity becomes the mechanism for trap- 
ping him in an intense conflict between physical necessity, national identity, and 


citizenship. His case is, as demonstrated, not unlike that of Cabral’s “homens 
plantados na lama.” 

Cabral’s philosophies on writing had much in common with his approach 
to his professional vocation. Unlike other poets who had “uma certa repulsa 
ao sentido profissional da literatura” (“Poesia” 730), Cabral openly associated 
writing to the exercise of a skilled profession in which the quality of his poetry 
was directly related to the amount of physical effort applied: “O artista intelec- 
tual sabe que 0 trabalho e a fonte da criagao e que a uma maior quantidade 
de trabalho corresponded uma maior densidade de riquezas” (“Poesia” 733). 
In his interview with Vinicius, Cabral explained this relationship: “Outra coisa: 
escrever e para mim trabalho bragal, e se eu nao tiver um esthnulo exterior 
qualquer, nao levo o meu trabalho ao fim. Ja me tern acontecido hear dois anos 
sem escrever uma so linha e sem sentir a menor necessidade de escrever poesia” 
(Moraes). Cabral’s writing process, whether thematically concerned with the 
poet or the impoverished, consisted of intense analysis and study, sparked by 
an intellectual curiosity in existent phenomena, leading to the guarded construc- 
tion of a tangible product — the poem. 

The daily grind of exercising his diplomatic profession coincided with the 
author’s methodical approach to writing. In fact, at the consulate, Cabral was 
specifically in charge of all repatriation issues and correspondence in Portu- 
guese as well as overseeing all general adjudication duties. In an official letter 
to the Ministro das Relates Exteriores sent on May 16, 1947, Dutra clearly de- 
lineates Cabral’s duties: “Ao Vice-Consul Joao Cabral de Melo Neto, conforme 
determinam as instrugoes de servigo em vigor, passei a diregao de todos os tra- 
balhos de chancelaria. Alem disso, ficaram a seu cargo, o controle das verbas de 
Aluguel’ e ‘Expediente,’ repatriagao e correspondence em lingua portuguesa” 
(Brazil, Distribuifdo). Thus Cabral was responsible for drafting all the previously 
cited letters concerning immigration and repatriation and had firsthand knowl- 
edge of each case. These duties, especially those of “repatriagao e corresponden- 
ce em lingua portuguesa,” not only indicate the prominence of literal dialogue 
in his profession, but also provide experiences to be used for developing a po- 
etic dialogue between the newly found social concerns of his artistic pursuits 
and his diplomatic duties. 

In a conference address given in 1954 at the Congresso Internacional de 
Escritores, Cabral further emphasizes the relationship between his poetry and 
diplomatic profession with his retort to what he perceived was a misinformed 

essays Joshua A. Enslen 

eurocentric perspective of Latin America proposed by the French anthropolo- 
gist and Universidade de Sao Paulo professor Roger Bastide (1898-1974). Cabral 
criticized Bastide’s depiction of a homogeneous view of the New World by Eu- 
ropeans: “Pode-se dizer que, apesar de ter tido o cuidado de distinguir as [duas] 
Americas vistas pelos europeus,” described by Cabral as “America Saxonica” 
and “America Latina,” “Bastide desprezou as diferentes especies de europeus 
que veem essas Americas” (“Como a Europa” 759). Then Cabral proposed that 
he had encountered at least two different European perspectives of the New 
World while working in Spain: “Nos meus anos de Espanha — primeira fase da 
minha vida na Europa — , tive oportunidade de conhecer melhor as duas classes 
de individuos: os intelectuais, com os quais convivia por forga de preferences 
comuns, e os trabalhadores, operarios e gente do campo, com os quais estava 
em contato diario, por forga de minha fungao consular” (“Como a Europa” 762). 
While Cabral explained that those individuals whom he considered to be intellec- 
tuals had, as a general rule, a limited vision of Latin America, he proposed that 
the common workers he interviewed at the Brazilian consulate had “uma visao 
muito mais realista da America Latina” (“Como a Europa” 762). For Cabral, the 
Spanish intellectual, despite pretensions to worldliness, was unaware of the real 
issues facing his continent: “Com excegao daqueles que, por forga de sua ativi- 
dade profissional, mostravam conhecer aspectos especiais da vida americana, a 
regra geral me parecia a ignorancia e a indiferenga por tudo quanto nos diz res- 
peito” (“Como a Europa” 762). Such “ignorancia e indiferenga” demonstrated 
that “no intelectual . . . persiste aquela visao aventureira dos primeiros seculos 
do descobrimento, em que a America valia como 0 continente do enriqueci- 
mento rapido” (“Como a Europa” 762). To the contrary, Cabral considered those 
whom he interviewed on a daily basis to possess a more realistic perspective: 
“Nos trabalhadores, candidatos a emigragao para o Brasil, a quern entrevistei e 
deivistos em passaportes durante anos . . . Encontrei, sim, umaatitude consci- 
ente, nascida de uma visao realista e informada da realidade brasileira . . . uma 
visao concreta que a muitos pode parecer limitada e superficial, mas que existe 
indiscutivelmente e com a qual e indispensavel contar” (“Como a Europa” 762). 
Lying at the root of the dichotomous relationship that Cabral constructed be- 
tween the Spanish intellectual and his more “common” counterpart, one en- 
counters the crux of the author’s transformation in Barcelona. As he consoli- 
dated, along with his methodical approach to writing, a new thematic perspective 
that represented not only an intellectual stance but also the voice of the poor 



inhabitants of the Capibaribe River, he valorized the plight of the common Bra- 
zilian in the same way that he appreciated the Spanish workers’ “visao realista 
e informada da realidade brasileira” (“Como a Europa” 762). In this way, the 
themes contained in “O cao sem plumas” not only make space for the intellec- 
tual hovered over a desk in existential angst, but also include the poor, “planta- 
dos na lama . . . como caes sem plumas” (“O cao” 108). 

In a letter written to Cabral in 1951, Manuel Bandeira recognized almost im- 
mediately the novelty of “O cao sem plumas.” After characterizing Cabral’s po- 
etry prior to “O cao sem plumas” as “exercfcios, estudos como sao em musica 
os de Chopin, Debussy, e outros,” Bandeira observes: “No ‘Cao sem Plumas,’ 
voce ja sentiu habilitado a fazer a tecnica servir ao seu sentimento e nao, como 
antes, por ao seu sentimento no aperfeigoar a tecnica” (Sussekind 126). Cer- 
tainly, no one was more aware of this transformation than the author himself. 
Just before the poem’s publication, Cabral confessed to Bandeira: 

Ando com muita preguiga e lentidao trabalhando num poema sobre o nosso 
Capibaribe. A coisa e lenta porque estou tentando cortar com ela muitas am- 
arras com minha passada literatura gaga e torre-de-marfim. Penso em botar 
com epfgrafe aqueles seus dois versos: 


— Capibaribe. (Sussekind 114) 

The two distinct spellings of the word Capibaribe in the would-be epigraph of “O 
cao sem plumas,” similar to the dual perspectives of Latin America he encoun- 
tered while in Barcelona, further evoke a dialogue between the intellectual and 
the colloquial. The former spelling of the river with an c — “Capiberibe” — was 
its proper orthography at the time, while the latter with an a — “Capibaribe” — 
was the written expression of its popular pronunciation (Sussekind 115). Just 
as Cabral proposed two different ways of perceiving the Capibaribe, he also at- 
tempted, for the first time, in “O cao sem plumas” to bring together the intellec- 
tual with the social. This new dialogue in “O cao sem plumas” is its most im- 
portant element, leaving an indelible mark on the author’s subsequent poetry. 

Literature and diplomacy both often embody a call to represent specific so- 
cial groups and identities and both likewise facilitate communication across bor- 
ders, real and imagined. For Cabral, diplomacy provided the experience through 
which his writing could begin to articulate universally recognized themes of pov- 
erty and the disenfranchisement of groups and individuals before their respec- 

essays Joshua A. Enslen 

tive nations and cultures. As poverty marginalizes the inhabitants of the river, 
their rights to full-fledged citizenship are severely limited. Yet these sociopolit- 
ical limitations confronted by those inhabiting the river find their parallel not 
only in Cabral’s diplomatic experience in Spain, but also on an existential plane 
to the degree that Cabral expresses an “experiencia da miseria” as a “problematica 
filosofica universal” (Tolman 67). As demonstrated by the overwhelming evi- 
dence found in his conference addresses, interviews, correspondence, oficios, 
and the poem itself, Cabral’s diplomatic experiences in Barcelona offer unex- 
plored avenues for better understanding the transformation in his poetry that 
took place with the publication of “O cao sem plumas” in 1949. 

Siissekind, 238 

1. See Joshua Enslen, “Vinicius de Moraes and ‘Patria minha’: The Politics ofWriting 
in Post-war Brazil,” Hispania 94.3 (2011): 416-428. 

2. This crucial admission by Cabral is quoted (but left undocumented) in an engag- 
ing essay by Ivan Junqueira titled “Joao Cabral, um mestre sem herdeiros,” published in 

0 Itamaraty na cultura brasileira (2002). Through my research in the Casa de Rui Barbosa, 

1 was able to locate the original quote in an interview of Cabral by Vinicius de Moraes. 

3. In a letter Medeiros wrote in January 1947, he states there are six members of his 
family (Medeiros, his wife and four children). But the telegram proposes that there are 
only five tickets awaiting Medeiros for the trip to Brazil. The reason for this discrepancy 
is not accounted for in the available documentation. 


Brazil. Ministerio das Relates Exteriores. Consulado do Brasil em Barcelona. 

Distribuigao dos servigos do Consulado Geral em Barcelona, 16/V/1947. No. 109. Vol. 54.4.1. 
Arquivo Historico do Itamaraty. Rio de Janeiro. 

. Emigragao espanhola para 0 Brasil. No. 64, 157/1948/Anexo 1:1-2. Vol. 54.4.2. 

Arquivo Historico do Itamaraty. Rio de Janeiro. 

. Imigragao de colonia agricola para 0 Estado de Goiaz, 1/IX/1949. No. 124. Vol. 54.4.3. 

Arquivo Historico do Itamaraty. Rio de Janeiro. 

. Letter from Brazilian Embassy in Madrid to Consulate in Barcelona, 17/III/1947. 

No. 85/1947/Anexo 4. Vol. 54.4.1. Arquivo Historico do Itamaraty. Rio de Janeiro. 

. Letter from Consulado in Barcelona to Ministro de Estado das Relates 

Exteriores, April 9, 1947. No. 85. Vol. 54.4.1. Arquivo Historico do Itamaraty. Rio 
de Janeiro. 


. Letter from Consulado in Barcelona to Octavio Medeiros, March 22, 1947. 

No. 85/1947/Anexo 5. Vol. 54.4.1. Arquivo Historico do Itamaraty. Rio de Janeiro. 

. Letter from Consulado in Lisbon to Consulado in Barcelona, May 28, 1947. 

No. 120/1947/Anexo unico. Vol. 54.4.1. Arquivo Historico do Itamaraty. Rio de 

. Letter from Octavio Medeiros to Consulado in Barcelona, January 19, 1947. 

No. 85/1947/Anexo 1. Vol. 54.4.1. Arquivo Historico do Itamaraty. Rio de Janeiro. 

. Letter from Octavio Medeiros to Consulado in Barcelona, February n, 1947. 

No. 85/1947/Anexo 2. Vol. 54.4.1. Arquivo Historico do Itamaraty. Rio de Janeiro. 

. Letter from Consulado in Barcelona to Octavio Medeiros, February 19, 1947. 

No. 85/1947/Anexo 3. Vol. 54.4.1. Arquivo Historico do Itamaraty. Rio de Janeiro. 

. Letter from Octavio Medeiros to Consulado in Barcelona, March 16, 1947. 

No. 85/1947/Anexo 4. Vol. 54.4.1. Arquivo Historico do Itamaraty. Rio de Janeiro. 

. Letter from Octavio Medeiros to Consulado em Barcelona, March 28, 1947. 

No. 85/1947/Anexo 5. Vol. 54.4.1. Arquivo Historico do Itamaraty. Rio de Janeiro. 

. Proposta de 732 imigrantes espanhois, November 5, 1949. No. 158. Vol. 54.4.3. 

Arquivo Historico do Itamaraty. Rio de Janeiro. 

. “Quadro estatistico mensal do movimento do consulado geral do Brasil no 

mez de dezembro de 1949.” No. 181/1949/Anexo unico. Vol. 54.4.3. Arquivo 
Historico do Itamaraty. Rio de Janeiro. 

. Repatriagao de Iracema e Clara Araes Vicente, April 29, 1947. No. 95. Vol. 54.4.1. 

Arquivo Historico do Itamaraty. Rio de Janeiro. 

. Repatriate) de Manoela Altero Crespo e tres filhos, April 24, 1950. No. 56. Vol. 54.4.4. 

Arquivo Historico do Itamaraty. Rio de Janeiro. 

. Situagao Hidroele'trica de Catalunha, January 2, 1949. No. 25. Vol. 54.4.3. Arquivo 

Historico do Itamaraty. Rio de Janeiro. 

. Telegramas despedidos: Durante 0 terceiro trimestre de 1947. No. 218/1947/Anexo 2 e 

ultimo/i. Vol. 54.4.1. Arquivo Historico do Itamaraty. Rio de Janeiro. 

. Departamento de Administragao: Divisao Pessoal. “Mello Neto, Joao Cabral 

de.” Anudrio: 1962 e 1963. Arquivo Historico do Itamaraty. Rio de Janeiro. 

Castello, Jose. Joao Cabral de Melo Neto: 0 homem sem alma and Diario de tudo. Rio de 
Janeiro: Bertrand Brasil, 2005. 

“Cronologia da Vida e da Obra.” In Joao Cabral de Melo Neto: Obra completa, volume unico, 
ed. Marly de Oliveira. Rio de Janeiro: Nova Aguilar, 2003. 25-29. 

Gruesz, Kirsten Silva. Ambassadors of Culture: TheTransamerican Origins of Latino Writing. 

Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002. 

Guibernau, Montserrat. Catalan Nationalism: Francoism, Transition and Democracy. New 
York: Routledge, 2004. 


essays Joshua A. Enslen 

Junqueira, Ivan. “Joao Cabral, um mestre sem herdeiros.” In 0 Itamaraty na cultura 
brasileira, ed. Alberto da Costa e Silva, 445-474. Rio de Janeiro: Francisco Alves, 

Melo Neto, Joao Cabral de. “Como a Europa ve a America: Resposta a tese do professor 
Roger Bastide.” In Joao Cabral de Mel 0 Net 0: Obra Completa, ed. Marly de Oliveira, 
757-763. Rio de Janeiro: Nova Aguilar, 2003. 

. “Joan Miro.” In Joao Cabral de Melo Neto: Obra completa, ed. Marly de Oliveira, 

689-720. Rio de Janeiro: Nova Aguilar, 2003. 

. “O cao sem plumas.” In Joao Cabral de Melo Neto: Obra completa, ed. Marly de 

Oliveira, 103-116. Rio de Janeiro: Nova Aguilar, 2003. 

. “Poesia e composigao.” In Joao Cabral de Melo Neto: Obra completa, ed. Marly de 

Oliveira, 721-737. Rio de Janeiro: Nova Aguilar, 2003. 

. “Psicologia da composigao.” In Joao Cabral de Melo Neto: Obra completa, ed. 

Marly de Oliveira, 85-102. Rio de Janeiro: Nova Aguilar, 2003. 

Moraes, Vinicius de. “Uma consagra^ao por demais justa.” Ts. VM Pi 198. Fundagao 
Casa de Rui Barbosa. Rio de Janeiro. 

Nunes, Benedito. Joao Cabral de Melo Neto. Rio de Janeiro: Vozes, 1971. 

Oliveira, Marly de. “Joao Cabral de Melo Neto: Breve introdugao a uma leitura de sua 
obra.” In Joao Cabral de Melo Neto: Obra completa, uolume unico, ed. Marly de Oliveira, 
15-24. Rio de Janeiro: Nova Aguilar, 2003. 

Sussekind, Flora, ed. Correspondencia de Cabral com Bandeira e Drummond. Rio de Janeiro: 
Editora Nova Fronteira, 2001. 

Tolman, Jon M. “An Allegorical Interpretation of Joao Cabral de Melo Neto’s ‘Morte e 
Vida Severina.”’ Hispania 61.1 (1978): 57-68. 

Valente, Luiz F. “Brazilian Literature and Citizenship: From Euclides da Cunha to 
Marcos Dias.” Luso-Brazilian Reuieu; 38.2 (2001): 11-27. 

joshua a. enslen is Associate Professor of Portuguese at the United States Military 
Academy at West Point, where he joined the faculty in 2008. He has published articles on 
a variety of topics related to Brazilian studies; his research focuses primarily on the rela- 
tionship between literature and diplomacy. He has published a number of articles and 
book chapters on this topic in Brazil and the United States. He can be reached via email 
at joshua.enslen(a) 



Narrating the Past and Inventing the Future 

Memory, History, and Narrative in 
Pedro Paramo and Terra SonambuSa 

abstract: In this article I analyze how the novels Terra Sonambula by Mozambican 
writer Mia Couto and Pedro Paramo by Mexican writer Juan Rulfo articulate history 
as persistence and repetition. I argue that in both novels the past arises as a phan- 
tasmagoric experience that returns under new forms in the present and threatens 
to continue into the future. I consider how in rewriting a central theme in Latin 
American literature, Mia Couto not only adapts it to the Mozambican context but 
also transcends it, seeking a way out of the "labyrinthic" patterns of memory that 
prevailed in Juan Rulfo’s novel. 

keywords: Juan Rulfo, Mia Couto, history. 

If geography separates Latin America from Lusophone Africa, a shared histori- 
cal experience brings these two regions together. The first instance of this con- 
vergence happened with the transatlantic slave trade, which forcefully trans- 
ferred to the Americas a large number of African populations, influencing the 
cultural and ethnic formation of the region. In the twentieth century, these two 
areas of the world would converge again after the Cuban military and ideologi- 
cal intervention in post-independence Angola. Beyond these direct exchanges, 
Lusophone African countries share with Latin America a history of social and 
ethnic divide, political instability, and institutional violence. In both areas, the 
persistence of deeply entrenched structures of power produced a lasting feeling 
of a violated history and a traumatic memory. 

But it was on the grounds of a resistance to these historical developments 
that Latin America and Lusophone Africa would converge again in meaningful 
ways. The fight for political, cultural, and mental emancipation brought the 
interest of Lusophone African writers to an array of artistic and cultural move- 
ments such as the Caribbean Negritude movement, the regionalistand modern- 

essays Thayse Leal Lima 

ist Brazilian literature, and, more recently, the Latin American narrative of the 
Boom era . 1 The Boom writers had conducted a critical revision of Latin Ameri- 
ca’s history, while simultaneously trying to achieve an autonomous mode of lit- 
erary expression. They were experimenting with aesthetic forms that could at 
once translate the specificity of the region and effect its insertion in world liter- 
ature. A similar drive can be found in the literatures of postcolonial Lusophone 
Africa, where, according to Patrick Chabal, writers found themselves concerned 
with the “consolidation and future developments of literature in their country,” 
as well as “the place of that literature in the world” (Chabal, Postcolonial Literature 
of Lusophone Africa n). 

In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Gabriel Garcia Marquez stated that 
one of the challenges of his generation was to find adequate forms to translate 
the complex Latin American reality: “Todas las criaturas de aquella realidad de- 
saforada hemos tenido que pedirle muy poco a la imaginacion, porque el desafio 
mayor para nosotros ha sido la insuficiencia de los recursos convencionales para 
hacer crefble nuestra vida” (i). It could be argued that one of the features that 
Garcia Marquez sought to make “believable” concerned a particular mode of his- 
tory based on persistence and repetition of the past. Latin American writers of 
this era tried to give shape to a historical experience that seemed to reproduce it- 
self in a succession of tyrannical governments, in the everlasting hierarchic power 
structures, and in the traumatic memory of those who suffered it all. In other 
words, Marquez’s repudiation of “conventional resources” could stand for the 
belief that Latin Americans historical experience should be narrated in aspecific 
way, one that could convey a recurring pattern of domination and oppression. 

In this article I analyze the similar imagery and narrative strategies that the 
novels Terra Sonambula by Mozambican writer Mia Couto and Pedro Pa'ramo by 
Mexican writer Juan Rulfo deploy to articulate an idea of history as persistence 
and repetition. I argue that in both novels the past arises as a phantasmagoric 
experience that returns under new forms in the present and threatens to con- 
tinue into the future. Attentive to the novels’ specific context and the authors’ 
personal approach, I try to consider how in rewriting a central theme in Latin 
American literature, Mia Couto not only adapts it to the social and political real- 
ity of Mozambique but also transcends it, seeking a way out of the “labyrinthic” 
patterns of memory that prevailed in Juan Rulfo’s novel. 

This essay is underlined by a larger effort to understand the literary and in- 
tellectual convergences between Lusophone and Hispanic American cultures. In 


the second half of the twentieth century, exchanges among postcolonial coun- 
tries became more intense. Informed by ideologies of Third Worldism and by 
ideals of transnational solidarity, these international exchanges bore a political 
significance. Historically it meant that the European canon, although still rele- 
vant, ceased to be an exclusive reference for the literary expression of postcolonial 
areas that passed through a specific process of domination and contestation. 2 

History as Repetition 

Although not directly portrayed in the novel, the Mexican Revolution is an im- 
portant reference in Pedro Paramo. A defining moment in Mexico’s history, the 
conflict mobilized an enormous portion of the population in a war against 
the dictatorship of Porffrio Diaz, bringing to an end decades of despotic rule. 
The official discourse came to celebrate the revolution as the advent of a new 
social and political era, even though the event did little to dismantle the power 
structures that existed prior to the revolution. In Pedro Pa'ramo, Juan Rulfo recon- 
structs the conditions that triggered the revolt, focusing the narrative around 
the figure of the landowner, who in Latin American agrarian societies was the 
source of an exclusive political and economic domination. In the world por- 
trayed in Rulfo’s novel, the landowner Pedro Paramo is the boss, the master, the 
father, and, as such, the arbiter of life and death. 

The narrative follows the journey of Juan Preciado, one of Paramos’s unrec- 
ognized offspring, who returns to his hometown with the set intention to search 
for his father. He makes the journey to fulfill a promise made to his mother on 
her deathbed: “No le vayas a pedir nada. Exfgele lo nuestro. Lo que estuvo ob- 
ligado a darme y nunca me dio . . . El olvido que se nos tuvo, mi hijo, cobraselo 
caro” (Rulfo 64). Although the return has the implied intention of demanding 
filial recognition and birthrights, it is particularly significant the mother’s last 
words refer not to these demands, but to the “olvido” (oblivion) to which Pedro 
Paramo subjected both mother and son. Eventually it comes to mean that Pre- 
ciado’s quest has to do with both recognition and cognizance — or, in other 
words, with having his origins (and thus his rights) acknowledged, but also 
with uncovering what was forgotten. In fact, on his return to Comala, Preciado 
will find not his predecessors or the town his mother left behind, but the mem- 
ory of them. 

In his paradigmatic journey to the past Juan Preciado learns that the collec- 
tive history encompasses his own. The history of the town is narrated in a frag- 


essays Thayse Lea! Lima 

mentary fashion from the many different viewpoints of the old inhabitants of 
Comala, whose personal life was marked by their tormented relationship with 
Pedro Paramo. Each new person Preciado meets in Comala recounts the process 
through which he or she came to met and fell under the spell of the landowner. 
In these narratives the relationship between Pedro Paramo and the population is 
invariably mediated through extortion, spoliation, and violence, but also through 
favor exchange and collaboration. 

On the one hand, the reconstruction of the collective experience leads Rulfo 
to pose the oligarchic power as an inescapable force behind the social, economic, 
and even affective relations in the region. On the other hand, it also exposes the 
role of the individuals themselves in sustaining this order, whether through 
an incapacity to recognize the powers working against them, or voluntarily co- 
operating in the relations of exchange and vassalage that characterizes Pedro 
Paramo’s patronage system. The novel represents the interplay of these oppos- 
ing forces as something embedded in the region’s history and collective uncon- 
scious, and symbolically extends these forces’ influence beyond the limits oflife 

Juan Preciado descends into Comala only to find out that most of the inhab- 
itants of the town, including his father, have long been deceased, and that the 
stories they whisper are the foundations of their own self-inflicted condemna- 
tion. The novel re-creates a “Dantesque” universe where people are condemned 
to eternally reenact the tale of their failure. The constant retelling of the mis- 
takes and traumas of the past works as a punishment. Filled with guilt and re- 
morse, these accounts do not give way to a therapeutic expurgation; on the con- 
trary, the process of repetition perpetually actualizes the past in the present. As 
a result, the people of Comala become subjected to a process of remembering 
that escapes their own control. Memory appears to gain a life of its own. In the 
structure of the narrative, this is reflected in the absence of properly recogniz- 
able narrators: many of them remain unidentified, existing only as echoes of the 
collective memory. Some of the stories seem to narrate themselves, as flashes of 
memory without an individualized consciousness, or a dream without a dreamer. 

These incorporeal voices are situated outside time, in a limbo-space that does 
not either participate in the real moment or totally belong to the realm of death: 
“Por que esse recordar intenso de tantas cosas? Por que no simplemente la 
muerte y no esa musica tierna del pasado?” (170). Here the repudiation of mem- 
ory as a source of suffering contrasts with the absence of memory (the “olvido”) 


that informs both Preciado’s search for origins and his mother’s request for 
vengeance. Ultimately, neither forgetting nor revolt takes place. Preciado wants 
to reclaim his origins, demand his legacy, and reconnect past and present in an 
intelligible totality. However, what he hears in Comala raises only fear and ter- 
ror, not revolt. He cannot resist the primeval desire to learn about what was, but, 
like an unchained Ulysses, he falls prey to the incessant “song of the past,” 
which ends in death. As for the people of Comala, the task of remembering only 
helps to reify the trauma, now converted into a haunting memory. Incapable of 
understanding or recognizing the economic, political, and psychological forces 
that lie behind their suffering, they go through death as through life, reenacting 
the same errors that eternally haunt them. The past produces no knowledge, no 
illumination. And in this sense, Comala becomes history’s dead end. 

The revolution, as a forceful break with the past, could have changed the 
course of things. However, in contrast with the official discourse, Rulfo’s novel 
presents a disenchanted version of the revolution, portraying it as an event that 
was unable to significantly undermine the structures of power that shaped Mex- 
ican society. When the revolution reaches Comala, Pedro Paramo soon co-opts 
it, skillfully neutralizing any threat it could pose to his domination. However, 
this intervention is only partially responsible for the failure of the revolution. 
The rebels themselves fail to identify and contest the social mechanisms that 
caused their oppression, thus they return to the old practices of negotiation and 
compromise with the landowning class. Instead of overthrowing the forces they 
were up against, the rebels paradoxically reinforce the structures of power that 
led them to fight. Therefore, the transformative potential of the insurrection is 
lost, and the hierarchies and powers that it should have neutralized are instead 
restored. The failure of the revolution to end the traditional power structure par- 
allels the failure of Comala’s ghosts to end the repetitive torment of memory. In 
life as in death, they succumb to the pressure of a hegemonic ideology that per- 
vades consciousness itself, giving shape to a reality that becomes inescapable. 

In the novel Terra Sonambula, Mia Couto rewrites the idea of a haunted past 
that torments and reshapes the present. The ghostly atmosphere of Comala re- 
appears in the deserted roads and abandoned towns that compose the novel’s 
landscape. Although not directly represented, the Mozambican Civil War informs 
the context and the background of the narrative. The violent conflict, which fol- 
lowed the end of the War of Independence in 1974 and lasted almost twenty 


essays Thayse Leal Lima 

years, had devastating consequences for the country, causing more than one 
million people to die and leaving thousands of others displaced . 3 

In the novel, the war appears as a threat that constantly haunts the individual 
and collective destiny. The narrative unfolds into two stories: the central one, 
narrated in the present, is set at the tail end of the Mozambican Civil War; the 
second one is set in the period prior to it, between independence and civil war. 
The frame narrative follows the journey of Muidinga, an orphan of war, and 
Tuahir, an elderly man, who after saving the boy from death becomes his main 
caretaker. Together they attempt to escape the conflict while using literature and 
imagination to cope with their fear and with the horrific reality that surrounds 
them. The second narrative comprises the journal that they read, which was 
found with the body of one victim of the war. It describes the journey of a man 
named Kindzu as he travels through an unstable country in the aftermath of the 

The split narrative technique permits the novel to retrace the recent history of 
Mozambique, focusing on its transitional moments. It shows the country’s polit- 
ical and ideological problems that after independence would lead to the civil war. 
The narrative also follows Mozambique’s first steps into the global economy, 
anticipating some of the problems that awaited the country in its path to recon- 
struction. Although focusing on these two distinct moments of historical rupture, 
Mia Couto’s novel underlines the deep continuities that remain between them. 

In Kindzu’s narrative the rough debut of the independent nation is symbol- 
ized in the story of a boy named Vinticinco de Junho, in homage to Mozambique’s 
Independence Day. The name, meaning “The Twenty-Fifth of June,” stands for 
the hope and optimism surrounding the event that would end the colonial sys- 
tem of domination. However, soon after his birth, Junhito (Kindzu’s younger 
brother) is forced to metamorphose into a chicken in order to avoid being kid- 
napped and enlisted in the fight. In Mia Couto’s stories, the fantastic often func- 
tions as an artifice to represent some of the horrific effects of the conflict in 
people’s lives. Here the metamorphosis serves also as a powerful metaphor for 
the evolution of the conflict that went from a valid instrument of national liber- 
ation to an internal clash for power. As the war evolved to an inhumane battle, it 
also lost all its initial transformative meaning. 

It can be inferred from Mia Couto’s novel that, although independence brought 
about significant institutional changes, the postcolonial state still maintained 



some of the basic problems that characterized the old order. The violence, cor- 
ruption, and domination of the new regime, portrayed in the novel, demon- 
strate that independence was not enough to produce a significant break with a 
history of exploitation and subjugation. The new elite in power profited from 
the war itself, manipulating fear, hunger, and the internal disorder to harvest 
political gains. Focusing on the new political order established after the fall of 
the colonial administration, the novel points out that oppression did not cease 
to exist but, rather, that it had new agents. 

An important representation of this persistence takes the form of the ghost 
of the Portuguese settler, who returns to reclaim the political and social position 
he held during the colonial period. As he learns about the independence and the 
political shifts that have occurred since his death, the old colonizer manages to 
associate himself with the new elite in power. The return of the ghost ofRomao 
Pinto points to the permanence of colonial structures of power even after inde- 
pendence. The association between the old colonizer and the new government 
functions as a reference to the partnership between the internal elite and the 
international capital during the reconstruction period. It questions the terms 
that governed Mozambique’s entrance into the global economy. 

Terra Sonambula was published in 1992, the same year that saw the end of the 
Mozambican Civil War. Once again, this is a moment of important historical 
transition, a moment in which the nation had to be reconstructed, the past re- 
considered, and the future reinvented. Politically it meant the end of the social- 
ist experiment and the adoption of international capitalism. As in other African 
nations, the reconstruction was financed by international economic organi- 
zations, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which 
meant heavy borrowing and high international debt (Chabal, History of Postcolo- 
nial Lusophone Africa). As a public intellectual, writer Mia Couto on several occa- 
sions questioned whether this path would fix the social, economic, and political 
damage produced by a history of colonialism and internal conflict, or whether 
it would merely produce new forms of dependency: “O colonialismo nao mor- 
reu com as independences. Mudou de turno e de executores . . . Nao so se nat- 
uralizou como passou a ser co-gerido numa parceira entre ex-colonizadores e 
ex-colonizados” (interview in Pensatempos 11). 

Mia Couto clearly feared that the association between the internal elite and 
the international capital (“ex-colonizadores e ex-colonizados”) would reinscribe 
old relationships of dependency and exploitation into the new context. In other 

essays Thayse Leai Lima 

words, in his opinion, although the country had achieved independence, it was 
still far from reaching autonomy and breaking the cycle of subordination that 
characterized its past. Thus the notion of history that prevails in the novel and 
writings of Mia Couto is that of a cyclical repetition, in which the ghost of the 
colonial past still haunts the present and threatens the future: “Roubaram-vos 
tanto que nem sequer os sonhos sao vossos, nada de vossa terra vos pertence, 
e ate o ceu e a terra serao propriedade de estranhos. Sera mil vezes pior que o 
passado pois nao vereis o rosto dos novos donos e esses patroes se servirao de 
vossos irmaos para vos dar castigo” (Terra Sonambula 201). The human conse- 
quence of a history of oppression is collective trauma, which in the passage 
cited manifests itself as an incapacity to dream, to conceive of another world. 
This conception of trauma is similar to the one prevalent in Pedro Paramo: not 
being able to dream is not being able to control the production of meaning and, 
ultimately, falling victim to an imposed history. As theorists Katharine Hodgkin 
and Susannah Radstone argued, memory is “provisional, subjective, concerned 
with representation and present rather then fact and the past” (2), and as such 
it does not bear a straight equivalence with the event it refers to. Similarly, al- 
though an event can be traumatic, the manifestation of the trauma itself is a sym- 
bolic resignification of the experience that caused it. Thus to process the trauma 
is to own the past, which necessarily has to do with the control of meaning and 
representation. Comala’s people, for example, who are unable to understand 
the motivation of their own “recuerdos,” have no other choice than to constantly 
reenact them. Not producing meaning out of experience is what permits this ex- 
perience to return and reproduce itself as a haunting memory. Mia Couto’s novel, 
however, offers an alternative to the determinist cycle of historical repetition. 

Memory as Invention 

As in Pedro Paramo, the actions in Terra Sonambula revolve around a paradigmatic 
voyage of self-discovery that passes through an investigation of the past. How- 
ever, instead of a persistent memory, the narrative explores the theme of mem- 
ory loss, both as a consequence of the extermination of entire communities and 
as a result of the trauma affecting those who survived. While in Pedro Paramo the 
process of forgetting, as well as that of remembering, is negatively associated 
with alienation and estrangement, in Terra Sonambula these processes are com- 
plementary and work as a strategy of survival, which, as I will argue, allows the 
past to be reinvented. 



Like Juan Preciado, Muidinga is moved by the primeval desire to learn about 
his origins and reconstruct his own identity. However, in his journey to the past, 
Juan Preciado becomes the repository of a collective memory, which he receives 
first from his mother and later from her community. Muidinga, on the other 
hand, loses his memory and his family to the war, and has nowhere to return to. 
As he moves through the empty roads, nothing that remains reminds him of an 
experience beyond the conflict; the ruins only tell a story of violence and terror. In 
the face of the brutal reality of the war, Tuahir urges Muidinga to embrace am- 
nesia in order to avoid releasing the pain that his mind might have locked away. 

The impasse between the old man’s rejection of the past and the young boy’s 
need to know stands for the postwar national struggle, which Hodgkin and Rad- 
stone described as having to do with “producing an agreed narrative that gives 
meaning and value to collective struggle, but simultaneously allowing for the ex- 
pression of moments of dissatisfaction and suffering” (ioi). In other words, the 
novel seems be posing the following question: how can the past be reconciled 
with the present to produce a narrative that simultaneously heals the wounds of 
the past and provides a space for the reconstruction of the scattered community? 

Mia Couto offers an alternative way to deal with the traumatic memory, one 
that is both collective and individual, that refers back to the past while directed 
to the future, and that profits as much from remembering as from forgetting. 
This alternative way is related to an active reinvention of the past, a process of 
critical interpretation, in which individuals take charge of the construction of 
their own history, selecting from the raw material of memory what will compose 
the narrative of the past. Paul Ricoeur, referring to Freud, calls this process of 
selection and reinvention a “recollection-memory,” which presupposes a move- 
ment of distancing, objectification, and interrogation of the past. The author 
contrasts it to what he calls “repetition-memory,” which compulsively acts out the 
past and resists criticism (14). In the novels analyzed here, “repetition-memory” 
describes the kind of memory that Tuahir fears, one that “can swallow up” peo- 
ple; it also accounts for the compulsive memory to which the people of Comala 
lose themselves. Mia Couto’s novel, on the other hand, favors a “recollection- 
memory,” which emphasizes how experience comes to be signified and how the 
past can be collectively re-elaborated in the present. 

While the incessant narration that goes on in Comala is fatal to Juan Preciado, 
who succumbs to the fear and terror that it inspires, narrative is what saves Muid- 
inga from the constant threat of death: “O que Ihe prediam aqueles destroys na 

essays Thayse Leal Lima 

estrada? Entao lhe veio a resposta clara: eram os cadernos de Kindzu, as estorias 
que ele vinha lendo cada noite” (Terra Sonambula 51). The difference between the 
experiences of the two characters is that Preciado is swept over by the collective 
memory he hears, whereas Muidinga is actively involved in the process of select- 
ing, interpreting, and rebuilding the collective memory. Confronted with the bru- 
tality of a war that turns life insignificant, in a world that lost all human sense, 
to produce meaning becomes a struggle to reach sanity and regain humanity. 

Terra Sonambula employs several mechanisms to enact a critical reassessment 
of the past: dream, invention, imagination, storytelling, memoir, and conver- 
sation. The dual structure of the novel, a narrative inside of a narrative, also re- 
flects the working of a critical memory that reads and interprets the past. In the 
main narrative, taking place in the present, Muidinga reads the “Cadernos de 
Kindzu,” which narrates events that took place in the past. At first this memoir 
functions as a means of entertainment and distraction during Muidinga’s jour- 
ney through the devastated country. Later it becomes a source for the composi- 
tion of Muidinga’s lost identity, as he first pretends to be Junito, Kindzu’s lost 
brother, and then to be Kindzu himself. As the narrative progresses, Kindzu’s 
notebook takes on the role of reconstructing the past, offering indirect glimpses 
on the situation before the war, and revealing some of the causes of the conflict. 
By doing so, Kindzu’s narrative becomes a source Muidinga can use to rebuild 
his own lost memory. 

According to Paul Ricoeur, “if history is to be able to engage critically with 
memory one needs to give meaning to the notion of collective memory” (10). 
Kindzu’s narrative is composed of several different stories he collected during 
his journey around the country. His notebook becomes the depository of a col- 
lection of memories belonging to people of diverse ethnic, racial, and national 
backgrounds. As such, it destabilizes any notion of a homogeneous or uniform 
history by offering varied perspectives on the event. These stories reflect the 
ethnic tensions, social fragmentation, and conflicts that informed the historical 
background of the war. Notably, most of the people Kindzu describes in his 
notebook are estranged from their original community, lost or not completely 
integrated in their new social environs. For example, this is true of Kindzu’s 
friend Surendra, an Indian merchant who suffers persecution and harassment 
after independence. It is also the experience of Farida, who was displaced from 
her tribe and separated from her family before the war. Similarly, Gaspar, who 
was conceived as a result of a rape and who is later abandoned in an orphanage. 


Virginha, Farida’s Portuguese adoptive mother, is another displaced character, 
far from her home country and impeded from returning to it. 

Kindzu’s memoir is a metonymy of Mia Couto’s own book. It functions as a 
space for the elaboration of a narrative that takes into consideration the multi- 
plicity of voices that form the collective memory. The freedom that Couto con- 
cedes to fictional imagination is, in a way, what permits himself to dream about 
a more inclusive reorganization of the Mozambican society itself, one that could 
accommodate the country’s social, ethnic, and cultural diversity. 

Mia Couto’s narrative participates in the effort to reconstruct the country’s 
national identity, a task in which the reassessment of the past plays a fundamen- 
tal role. In his nonfictional writings, Mia Couto rejects what he calls “essencial- 
ist discourses,” which propose the recuperation of an original African identity 
prior to the process of colonization. He considers this return impossible given 
the country’s past and current diversity. The reconciliation of Mozambique, ac- 
cording to Couto, would entail the construction of a multicultural society that 
could acknowledge and include the different cultural groups that exist within 
the country. In the novel, this ideal takes the form of cooperation across ethnic 
traditions and across different forms of cultural registers, such as the oral and 
the written, which converges in a collective national narrative. In other words, if 
difference is inscribed in the core of collective memory itself, it should also be 
incorporated in the form that shapes the narrative about the past. 

But in order for this cooperation to happen, the authority of written over oral 
language also had to be reconsidered. Mia Couto seems to be conscious that 
this cooperation usually conceals a hierarchic objectification of the oral tradi- 
tion, often taken as a source narrative to be reworked and preserved in written 
form. This perception also implies the writer or the intellectual as the savior of 
the collective memory, responsible for producing the articulation between tra- 
ditional and modern forms. In Terra Sonambula, the intellectual represented by 
Kindzu is far from being a leader of the masses or a rescuer of a dying oral tra- 
dition. In fact, his mission to reconnect families and people scattered during the 
war fails. His memory survives only because others seize and make use of it. In 
the novel, the intellectual becomes only one of the agents in a collective process 
of narrating the past, based on a wide chain of interpretations, reappropriations, 
and exchanges between different sources of memory. 

This process is better illustrated in the ways in which Muidinga and Tuahir 
interact with and appropriate of Kindzu’s memoir. Muidinga is an active reader 

essays Thayse Lea! Lima 

who takes control over the stories and turns them into his own. He not only 
performs the stories, embodying the characters and using them as subsidies for 
the construction of his own self, but also intervenes in the development of the 
story itself. By doing so, he blurs the lines between what is recorded and what 
is imagined. At a certain point, Tuahir questions whether the stories Muidinga 
tells are actually written in the notebook, or whether he only pretends to read 
them. The question destabilizes the hierarchies between reading and writing 
and, as such, between the oral and written traditions. It implies not only that 
reading/retelling determines meaning by a retrospective act of interpretation, 
but also, in a Borgesian alteration of the logical causality, that these actions col- 
laborate in the very process of creation. In other words, Muidinga becomes not 
only the story’s reader/interpreter but also its author. As they retell, reenact, and 
redevelop the narrative, both Muidinga and Tuahir become responsible for actu- 
alizing this narrative in the world, renewing its meaning in the present and as- 
suring its continuity in the future. 

According to Ricoeur, “The past acquires its double sense of having been and 
no longer being only in relation to the future” (9). Mia Couto not only writes 
about moments of change; he himself is also writing from a moment of histor- 
ical transition. With the end of the civil war and the beginning of the reconstruc- 
tion, the past and future collapse into one another: in order to continue, to move 
forward, it was necessary to first deal with the ghosts of the past, to heal the 
wounds and reveal the traumas. The meaning extracted from this revision would 
offer the material from which the future could be molded. This double move- 
ment of looking at the past to envision the future also shows that, although the 
past cannot be undone, its meaning, as Ricoeur puts it, “is not fixed once and 
for all” (14). Through reenactment-reinterpretion-reinvention, Mia Couto shows 
that imagination can free the past to reshape the future. If the advantage of fic- 
tional representation over History is that it can reenact the deep structures of 
historical experience, it also has the power to break the spell of historical deter- 
mination, and reshape destiny as possibility. 


1. For more information on this topic, see Chabal, The Postcolonial Literature ofLuso- 
phone Africa. 

2. Mia Couto has recognized Latin American literature (specifically citing the writ- 
ers Garcia Marquez, Juan Rulfo, and Guimaraes Rosa) as an important reference for his 


work. For more information, see his interview for the Brazilian TV show Roda Viva 

3. For more information on the Mozambican Civil War see Chabal, A History of Postco- 
lonial Lusophone Ajrica. 


Bourdieu, Pierre. “The Social Conditions oflnternational Circulation of Ideas.” In 
Bourdieu: A Critical Reader, ed. Richard Shusterman. Oxford: Blackwell, 1999. 

Chabal, Patrick et al. The Postcolonial Literature ojlusophone Africa. Evanston, 111 .: 
Northwestern University Press, 1996. 

. A History of Postcolonial Lusophone Ajrica. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 


Couto, Mia. Pensatempos: Textos deOpiniao. Lisbon: Editorial Caminho, 2005. 

. Roda Viva. 2007. Web. 27 May 2014. 

. Terra Sonambula. Lisbon: Editorial Caminho, 1992. 

Fiddian, Robbin W., ed. Postcolonial Perspectives in the Cultures of Latin America and Lusophone 
Ajrica. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2000. 

Garcia Marquez, Gabriel. “La Soledad de America Latina.” Keynote Speech to the Nobel 
Foundation, 8 December 1982. 

Hodgkin, Katharine, and Susannah Radstone, eds. Memory, History, Nation: Contested 
Pasts. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 2006. 

Paz, Octavio. El Laberinto de la Soledad. Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Economica, 2004. 
Ricoeur, Paul. “Memory, Forgetting, History.” In Meaning and Representation, ed. Jorn 
Riisen. New York: Berghahn Books, 2006. 

Rulfo, Juan. Pedro Paramo. Madrid: Catedra, 1992. 

thayse leal lima is a PhD candidate in Portuguese and Brazilian studies at Brown 
University. She is currently working on a dissertation about intellectual exchanges be- 
tween Brazilian and Hispanic American literary critics during the second half of the 
twentieth century. Her research interests include twentieth-century Brazilian, Hispanic 
American, and Lusophone literature, intellectual history, and literary criticism. She can 
be reached at thayse_lima(a) 



Mai de Mar 

A Reading of Jorge de Sena’s 
“A Gra-Canaria” in (trans-)Atlantic Transit 

abstract: This article analyzes Jorge de Sena's short story “A Gra-Canaria” in the 
context of a wider discussion on the topographies of the South Atlantic taken as an 
ideological construct, to some extent always already textual(ized). The story empha- 
sizes the tensions in the enclosing of either the boat or the island as spaces of abso- 
lute fascist rule (in 1938 and 1961), and its setting in the Atlantic allows for a wider 
criticism of oppressive regimes operating in the South Atlantic axis while also ad- 
dressing the "Atlantic exception" (Roberto Vecchi) in the context of wider European 
headings. It dismantles both the incipient establishing of the Atlantic as a "Portu- 
guese Sea” by the Estado Novo and the construction of the legal and political con- 
ceptions such as that of the "overseas provinces" in the Constitutional Revision of 
1951. This reading aims to foreground the spacing (Jacques Derrida) intrinsic to the 
inscription of such topographies of otherness and the projection of the selfsame in 
order to stress the tensions, the contradictions, and the limits of discourses under- 
writing an “immunitary paradigm” (Roberto Esposito) bent on establishing and 
marking the borders between a supposed self and its projected others. 

keywords: Jorge de Sena; South Atlantic; immunitary paradigm 

0 meu pais e 0 que 0 mar nao quer 
— Ruy Belo, “Morte ao meio-dia” 

Veering of the Island 

Jorge de Sena’s short story “A Gra-Canaria,” first published in 1961 in the collec- 
tion Os Grdo-Capitaes, has been met with scrupulous analysis of its intertextual 
rewriting of the episode of “Ilha dos Amores” by Luis de Camoes (Os lusiadas, 
1572) and of its criticism of the Iberian fascist regimes. This reading will attempt 



to frame the text in the context of a wider discussion on the topographies (Miller 
1-8) of the South Atlantic, by swerving from the island as “centra semantico da 
novela,” as an ironic appropriation whether as site of redemption (Macedo 169) 
or of criticism of Iberian fascist regimes in 1938 (see Fagundes). I am attempt- 
ing to read the “imagined reality” (Macedo 169) in relation to a factual one, albeit 
(always already) textualized. After all, as Macedo points out, “a referenciagao 
mitica de “Gra-Canaria” deriva [ . . . ] do pormenorizado realismo concrete de 
uma narrativa historicamente circunstanciada” (171). 

The dual historical context of this writing, in 1961, set in 1938, allows us to 
approach both the incipient establishing of the Atlantic as a “Portuguese Sea” 
by the Estado Novo 1 and the construction of the legal and political conceptions 
such as that of the “overseas provinces” in the Constitutional Revision of 1951. 
This was inspired by Gilberto Freyre’s theory, widely known currently under the 
vague term “luso-tropicalism.” 2 This act has followed in the wake of mounting 
international pressure in the postwar concerning Portuguese colonial posses- 
sions (Madureira, “The Empire’s” 141), coinciding with and attempting to veil a 
colonial drive aiming at the construction of an economic space in the Portuguese 
overseas that could provide the Portuguese nation with a space of influence out- 
side the European community and the two rival superpowers of the Cold War. 

The play between text and context, therefore, is not in question; it is the ques- 
tion. I therefore wish to stress how the short story emphasizes the tensions in 
the enclosing of either the boat or the island as spaces of absolute fascist rule 
(in 1938 and 1961), by making use of the notion of the “immunitary paradigm” 
(Esposito, Comunidad, inmunidad y biopohtica 14-16). Additionally, its setting in 
the Atlantic (the two epigraphs are “Atlantico, 1938” and an indication that the 
Canary Islands are located “au nord-ouest du Sahara”) allows for a different 
(con)textual play, opening up a wider criticism of oppressive regimes operating 
in the South Atlantic axis. It would be careless not to take into consideration 
that the short story was written and published during Sena’s exile in Brazil. The 
writing is thus dislocated both spatially and temporally, and this “veering” (to 
use Nicholas Royle’s felicitous and duplicitous term) 3 is significant for a read- 
ing that takes into account the text in relation to the historical and political con- 
texts of 1938 (the Spanish Civil War and consolidation of power of both dictator- 
ships) and 1961 (the signs of internal and international dissention, as conflicts 
arise in the colonies and the metropolis and Portugal’s position is overtly con- 
tested internationally). 

essays Rui Miranda 

I will therefore depart from the Atlantic, where the story is set, addressing 
the “excepgao atlantica” (Vecchi 71, 72), which projects not only a Portuguese 
(or Iberian) dimension but also the “image and mirage” of a specific (exception- 
alized) “lusiad” influence in the South Atlantic (Lourengo “Imagem e miragem 
da lusofonia”; Lourengo “Cultura e lusofonia ou os tres aneis”), inevitably re- 
lated to wider European projections. Anna Klobucka’s revisitation of an “Island 
of Love” episode influence on Gilberto Freyre’s luso-tropicalist imagery is a 
valid point of departure for an extrapolation beyond national borders and for a 
wider context of the South Atlantic sea that the short story undermines (see Klo- 
bucka). If one wants to consider a South Atlantic paradigm as an alternative to 
current cultural and political headings (globalization, lusofonia, neocolonialism), 
there is no alternative than to address the tensions of the construction of the 
South Atlantic so as to not be condemned to repeat the gesture and frame the 
Atlantic as a blank space where the advances of ipseity are projected. 4 

Projecting (on) the South Atlantic 

Atirarmo-nos ao Atlantico n do e solu^ao. 

— Eduardo Lourengo 

Taking the Atlantic as the topos and the tropos of the story implies more than a 
mere shift in perspective; it indicates a different approach that supplements the 
intertextual readings of Helder Macedo and Costa Fagundes with an emphasis 
on textuality itself, that is, “the constant and radical dialectical play of the differ- 
ence^) between text and context” (McGuirk 137). In this short story the Atlantic 
is topographed in the sense that J. Hillis Miller lends to the word; the space is 
written, it draws and is drawn (Miller 13). As such, it draws in and draws from 
projections of national texts and transcendental(ized) imperial spaces, such as 
the “Portuguese sea” and the “Island of Love,” thus entering into dialogue with 
imperial chronologies such as those that Macedo and Costa Fagundes trace. 

The Atlantic, however, enacts both more and less than the space of and for 
Portuguese imperial topography. It is the spacing that acts both as a condition of 
possibility and impossibility of the South Atlantic rendered as a sea in possession 
by the Portuguese. By “spacing,” I wish to question the opposition “presence/ 
absence,” which underwrites the conception of a South Atlantic as a space to be 
projected/filled with meaning(s), with a fixed “spacetime.” Closely linked to the 
Derridean concepts of “trace” and “drfferance” (“Semiology and Grammatology” 


26), spacing defers presence (“Semiology and Grammatology” 29) and is at the 
same time the condition of possibility for the effects of presence, as the “pro- 
duction of the intervals without which the ‘full’ terms would not signify, would 
not function” (“Semiology and Grammatology” 27). The concepts of spacing 
and alterity cannot be dissociated — and this is particularly visible in topogra- 
phy. Spacing, however, is not to be mistaken with a third way, or yet another 
space, substituting masses of land (continents or islands) and ships: “Sparing 
designates nothing, nothing that is, no presence at a distance; it is the index ofan 
irreducible exterior, and at the same time of a movement, a displacement that in- 
dicates an irreducible alterity” (Derrida “Positions” 81). 

The empire acts (always) already as imagination, and in the Portuguese case, 
as Margarida Calafate Ribeiro has argued, empire acted as an “imagination of 
the centre” (136). The Atlantic plays a crucial role in this imaginary configura- 
tion. I would argue that this imagined center rests on what Roberto Vecchi iden- 
tifies and discusses as the Portuguese “Atlantic exception.” In turn, Portugal’s 
Atlantic exceptionalism rests on the rendering of the sea as a blank space, erased 
in the representation of Portugal’s colonial possessions as illustrated by Hen- 
rique Galvao’s infamous propaganda map of 1935, titled “Portugal nao e um pais 
pequeno,” which projects the colonial landmasses onto the European surface. 
By confronting the supposed specificity of Portuguese literature’s connection to 
the sea with the deployment of the sea as an ideological tool (Vecchi 71, 72), one 
notes how the erasure of the sea (as the blank space where Portugal’s ipse is pro- 
jected) neutralizes the differences between metropolis and the “overseas.” This 
neutralization was the basis of Portuguese colonial exceptionalism, veiled as a 
national universalism under the Estado Novo (Madureira, “The Empire’s” 141). 

The setting of Jorge de Sena’s short story in the Atlantic marks both a dislo- 
cation of the territorial logic and a point of entry into the supposedly monolithic 
national and political constructs of the represented island and the ship. I will 
therefore address the island and the boat, the spaces of the diegesis, as national 
and imperial repressive states constructed as a modernist immunitarian para- 
digm (Esposito, Comunidad, inmunidad y biopotitica). These are projected against 
the backdrop of an epic and historical sea that supposedly is the object and the 
agent of the inscription of a teleological line and national and cultural insemi- 
nation and affiliation. The violence and conflicts unveiled by the story reveal, 
however, that this projection of ipseity takes place not due to a historical posses- 
sion of the sea but due to its neutralization in modernity’s configuration ofab- 


essays Rui Miranda 

solute space. 5 The use of ideological tropes and of diverse images and mirages 
of the Atlantic as the extension of national and imperial sovereignty attempts to 
close space for political action (differences, separation, distance are veiled and 

One must point out the dialectical role of the sea in Hegel’s conception of 
Europe and European history, which marks a tradition of rendering the sea as 
the object of suppression in the recovery of the other into the ipse. The advance- 
ment of Europe has been a trademark of political and philosophical European 
tradition (and, as we will see, of European colonialism) in the reproduction and 
projection of an ipse onto its (rendered) others (Esposito, Communitas 106-111). 

Therefore, before entering Iberian or national exceptionalisms grounded on 
historical privilege, one must address the historicity of such phenomena. The 
propelled “specificity” of a Portuguese colonial enterprise is a product of dis- 
course and, as such, part of a larger European narrative that has always narrated 
the colonial process a posteriori, inscribing it into a logical and teleological 
line. This line features Europe not only as a point of departure and a point of 
arrival, but also as a cap of insemination. The Portuguese “specific” space in be- 
tween Europe and its others and their supposed unique ability of adapting to and 
penetrating into the tropics is not only part of a Portuguese Atlantic exception- 
alism; it also obeys a “phallogocentric” discourse that structures the narratives 
of European “advancement” of the “self”: 

To advance oneself is, certainly, to present oneself, to introduce or show one- 
self, thus to identify and name oneself. To advance oneself is also to rush 
out ahead, looking in front of oneself (“Europe looks naturally toward the 
West”), to anticipate, to go on ahead, to launch oneself onto the sea or into 
adventure, to take the lead in taking the initiative, and sometimes even to go 
on the offensive. To advance (oneself) is also to take risks, to stick one’s neck 
out, sometimes to overestimate one’s strengths, to make hypotheses, to sniff 
things out precisely there where one no longer sees (the nose, the peninsula, 
Cape Cyrano). Europe takes itself to be a promontory, an advance — the avant- 
garde of geography and history. It advances and promotes itself as an ad- 
vance, and it will have never ceased to make advances on the other: to induce, 
seduce, produce, and conduce, to spread out, to cultivate, to love or to vio- 
late, to love to violate, to colonize, and to colonize itself. (Derrida, The Other 
Heading 48, 49) 


Europe projects itself onto the other, filling its own metaphysical vacuity with 
the reproduction and the projection of the selfsame. The South Atlantic ports, 
featured in the short story as an imagined (re)collection of women servicing the 
sailors, are a potent illustration of this advancement of the sailors and the ship, 
which represents Portugal (Sena, “A Gra-Canaria” 218). The different cities and 
ports are fused and confused with prostitutes and their specific sexual attributes, 
exposing and exploiting the paradoxical but always violent advances (loving and 
violating, loving to violate) on the others within and without the self. It acts 
as context, pretext, and subtext for the violence imposed overseas and intraseas, 
namely in the immunitarian paranoid confinements of the boat and the island. 
The “Ultramar,” the Estado Novo’s “palavra de ordem,” is as an imaginary space 
of self-projection and attempted reproduction at the cost of the annihilation of 
alterity: 6 

Santos era uma francesa magra, cuja boca, com o passar do tempo, se aper- 
tava sugante no sexo de quase todos que viam, em tremuras de passivo gozo, 
os cabelos louros dela saltitando sobre as barrigas. Sao Vicente de Cabo 
Verde era uma crioula de olhos verdes que algava as pernas, exibindo um sexo 
infantil, humido e rosado, com esparso cabelos impuberes, e que um deles, 
for^ado pelos outros, lambera, entre as gargalhadas que sacudiam, em frente 
a cama de ferro que rangia e desabou, os sexos erectos. Luanda era uns seios 
gigantescos e negros, duros, que as maos nao conseguiam apertar. O Rio de 
Janeiro era uma praia nocturna, onde uma polaca, cujas nadegas rotundas fora 
preciso abrir, brilhavam saltando a luz da lua. (Sena, “A Gra-Canaria” 213) 

This certainly falls within the sphere of what Anne McClintock has called “por- 
no-tropics” (see Loomba 154). It also illustrates what Josiah Blackmore calls the 
“metaphoric erotics of imperial voyaging as represented by the iconic figure 
of the expansionist ship.” Blackmore is referring to the rounding of the Cape of 
Good Hope, which inscribes Africa “into an expansionist, cartographic impera- 
tive” (xxiv), although I would argue that this erotic element is even more strik- 
ing in the libidinal reward dispensed to the sailors on their return to Europe 
after discovering the maritime route to Asia in the episode of the “Island of 
Love,” as Macedo notes in relation to “A Gra-Canaria” and Klobucka in relation 
to Gilberto Freyre’s theories. In “A Gra-Canaria” the imaginary of the discov- 
eries presented in Os Iusiadas is distorted by the sailors’ “virilidade obsessiva” 


essays Rui Miranda 

(Sena, “A Gra-Canaria” 213). The sailors function as a cap; their desires are fused 
and confused with ships in their penetration of and journey into “novas terras 
e novas prostitutas” (213), “alongando a sua nudez maliciosamente desperta 
pelas ideias de terra proxima” (212). 

The description of the initial sexual intercourse between the narrator and the 
young prostitute in his conquering and plundering of her body 7 acts as yet an- 
other contextualized invocation of the trope of the Virgin Land, available, ready 
to be conquered and penetrated (Loomba 151). It renders visible and duplicates 
the violence underwriting both the ship’s calling in the ports of the South Atlan- 
tic and the exploitation of the young girl by thejalangista. The European confu- 
sion, as a cap (and Portugal is a cap of Europe, “quase-cume” since Os Lusfadas) 
between love, violation, and colonization of other and self, is exposed here as 
an instrument of violence. 

In 1961, when the short story was published, the whole ideological edifice of 
the New State was put to the test with the mounting pressures from the interna- 
tional community for the decolonization of Portuguese empire in the interna- 
tional stage and with the police and military actions taken by the Indian Union 
(in the 1950s, then in 1961) and the conflicts arising in Angola. The constructs 
of the Constitutional Revision of 1951, inspired by an appropriation of Gilberto 
Freyre’s notion of a specificity of Iberian integration in the tropics, played a piv- 
otal role in subverting the national narrative of decline (Ribeiro 147). Gilberto 
Freyre, who had been officially recognized as a member of the Portuguese Acad- 
emy of History precisely in 1938 (when the short story is set), will have his theo- 
ries of a racial democracy projected from the Brazilian context to a “Portuguese 
World” (“mundo que o portugues criou”) (Arenas 7, 8), and the supposed pro- 
pensity of Portuguese to mix with non-Europeans will paradoxically will rein- 
force the topography of Portugal as the cap of Europe reaching out and erasing 
differences across the sea, inseminating civilization overseas. 

The short story exploits the powerful contradictions and tensions behind 
the ideological subtext and the supposedly scientific legitimizing of the Estado 
Novo’s colonial endeavors. The discourse behind and in the wake of the 1951 
legislation, which revoked the Colonial Act (1930), are exposed as nothing more 
than an ideological romanticizing of the Portuguese occupation of the South 
Atlantic space. After all, Freyre’s notion of a racially or ethnically “democratic” 
colonialism can be seen to rest entirely on the “sexual availability” of the native 



women (see Madureira, “The Empire’s” 142-143), featuring women as “disem- 
bodied vaginas” available to “oversexed men” of the Iberian West (Madureira, 
“Tropical Sex Fantasies” 163). 

As Calafate Ribeiro states, the changes in 1951 did very little but change “the 
surface of Portuguese imperialism” (Ribeiro 165). However, this legal formality 
and the ideology projected by it have lasting cultural and political effects that 
cannot be ignored. The Platonic metaphor of the nation as a ship 8 is put to strik- 
ing use in the context of the Estado Novo’s insistence on Portugal’s civilizing 
mission and its international isolation, as Portugal allegedly (Rodrigues, Ken- 
nedy e Salazar 23 6) stood “proudly alone” in the post-Second World War while it 
aimed to create a Portuguese economic space (wholly dependent on the colo- 
nies) as an alternative to the European block and to the hegemonic Cold War 

Via the ship, the fatherland penetrates beyond the sea, extending and dupli- 
cating itself through its envoys; it inseminates and disseminates itself. This is in- 
semination and dissemination with a view to a return to self, to the order of a self. 

Hence, the evoked discourse of the captain regarding immediately preceding 
“visita de cortesia” to Brazil starts by referring to it as a “pais irmao” and as a 
colonial offspring and follower (“colonia portuguesa”; “governo que modelara 
a sua conduta pelo exemplo de Portugal”) that awaits the ship as an immunitary 
injection: “para fortificar-se no seu patriotismo” (Sena, “A Gra-Canaria” 216). 
The ship’s unplanned call to Gra-Canaria disrupts the ideological, colonial, and 
nostalgic path of the South Atlantic crossing between Brazil and Africa, itself 
the nineteenth- and twentieth-century substitute for Brazil’s loss in Portuguese 
imperial policy (Ribeiro 149, 50). 

The events that take place in the island are both the continuation of and a 
counterpoint to the imagined transoceanic community of wombs available to 
insemination, on either side of the Atlantic. Luis Madureira has analyzed how 
in the fiction of the colonial wars, the penetration of the “fertile tropical wombs 
of the cathectic geography of Lusotropicalism” is disrupted as sodomy (Madu- 
reira, “The Empire’s” 146, 147). “A Gra-Canaria” anticipates the rendering the 
penetration as a sterile exercise, destroying the myth of integration and penetra- 
tion by exposing it as violation. 9 The sexual intercourse between the narrator 
and the young prostitute denounces the propensity for “advances on the other.” 
Only after the narrator’s penis retracts after orgasm is he able to see a different 
reality that goes beyond the imaginary projections of the self. The result of his 

essays Rui Miranda 

advancement is sterile; there is but death in the name of (the pleasuring of) the 
self. The description of the girl’s body is very clear in this regard: she appears 
“como um corpo esquartejado” with her “ventre desvicerado” (Sena, “A Gra- 
Canaria” 243). 

Disrupting Insemination 

Petiso que escrevemos para ofuturo, evidente mente, mas escrevemos para 0 nosso tempo. 

— Jorge de Sena 

Dislocating the usual reading of “A Gra-Canaria” — moving from a focus on the 
space (political and/or intertextual) of the island toward a reading articulated 
with a transatlantic slant, with attention to both “overseas” (in the case of the 
African colonies) and “over the seas” (in the case of Portugal-Brazil) — forces us 
to address the context of the writing of “A Gra-Canaria.” The year 1961 has be- 
come known as the annus horribilis for the New State regime because of visi- 
bility of international protest, allied with growing internal contestation within 
the elites of the regime. The fragility of the regime was exposed through the call 
to arms “Para Angola e em Forga” with the start of the fight for independence 
in Angola (1961), soon followed by Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (1963) and 
Mozambique (1964). This revealed the fragility of the construct of a multicon- 
tinental nation, one “from Minho to Timor,” where “overseas provinces” are an 
integral part of the nation. 

Not only did the “overseas provinces” fight against their de facto (empirical) 
status as colonies; the sea itself (and the Atlantic) became the site of international 
protest in 1961 with the hijacking of the Santa Maria cruise ship by Portuguese 
and Spanish dissident groups that aimed to draw attention to the suppression of 
civil liberties taking place in both regimes of the Iberian peninsula. The relative 
success of this political action — the Brazilian state granted the activists asylum, 
signaling a shift in Brazil’s policy regarding the African continent via Janio 
Quadro’s government’s “Polftica Externa Independente” (Davila, Hotel Tropico 
49) — shattered the notion of the Atlantic as a “Portuguese sea” and of a vague 
Luso-Brazilian alliance (renewed symbolically in 1922 with the ceremonious of- 
ficial celebrations of the aerial crossing of the South Atlantic by Gago Coutinho 
and Sacadura Cabral). 

It is therefore not surprising that the emergence of a discourse of resistance 
performs a revision of the image of a heroic and epic sea, pointing not only to 



the vacuity of such notions but also to the underlying and underwriting violence 
sustaining these constructs. Fiama Hasse Pais Brandao, associated with Poesia 
61 movement, rewrote her Barcas Nouas in the idealized formal imagery of Canti- 
nas de Amino by evoking the dead bodies that were carried across the oceans in 
the context of the Colonial Wars; Manuel da Silva Ramos and Alface pointed to 
the speciality and monstrosity of the imperial discourse by disrupting and dis- 
torting the national text in their Os lusiadas (1977) ; and Joao de Melo’s Auto'psia de 
um mar de rum as (1984) displaced the genre of the celebrated historical chroni- 
cles of imperial expansion by shifting the subject to the colonial campaigns in 

These texts all follow a similar strategy. They unsettle not only historical texts 
and contexts but also, crucially, the claim to a fixed relationship between text 
and context. They expose by distorting the ideological constructions underwrit- 
ing, and ultimately undermining, such discourses. What is also revealed is that 
there is no “Ultramar”: the mar is never ultrado; there is no simple passage, 
duplication of reproduction of the ipse. The sea is rendered as the site of trans- 
lation in the etymological sense of the word; the sea produces difference, it sep- 
arates and creates distance. It is therefore, in this context, the site for political 

With the military coup of 1964, things will change in Brazil. In F ado Tropical, 
the transatlantic projection of identity, criticizing the Brazilian political regime 
by referring to the colonial one, is disrupted precisely by the infection of the 
unity and union of the self with its projected (transatlantic) other, denouncing it 
as an act of violence and submission. 

In the play Calabar: 0 elogio da trai^ao (1973) Chico Buarque and Ruy Guerra 
attempted (ultimately unsuccessfully) to circumvent dictatorial censorship, 
contesting the official version of history by revisiting the historical figure Do- 
mingos Fernandes Calabar, traditionally regarded as a national traitor. The 
ironic appropriation of colonial history is visible in the popular “Fado Tropical” 
(1972-1973), a song that was written for the play, where the national topoi on 
either side of the Atlantic are fused and confused in the projection of a single 
nation, the “ideal” of an “imenso Portugal” in Brazil. The Tejo and the Amazonas 
delineate a topography in which the rendering of the Atlantic as an empty space 
erases inter- and intradifferences (Buarque 706). The sea stands as an obstacle 
to be surpassed — its foldings are ignored — in ipseity, or in the mere imitation, 
duplication, (af)filiation of the (sublated or not) same presences. 

essays Rui Miranda 

The state censors allowed the song to be released, although they censored 
the mentioning of “sifilis.” The verse “(alem da sifilis, e claro)” infects the (luso- 
tropical) construction of the vigorous yet cordial Portuguese colonizer, exposing 
the paternalistic and patronizing ideological discourses and practices disguis- 
ing violence: 

Sabe, no fundo eu sou um sentimental 

Todos nos herdamos no sangue lusitano uma boa dose de lirismo 

(alem da sifilis, e claro) 

Mesmo quando as minhas maos estao ocupadas em torturar, esganar, 


Meu coragao fecha aos olhos e sinceramente chora . . . (Buarque 706) 

And yet only that verse was censored. What this demonstrates is that some nar- 
ratives are beyond critique. When Moacyr Scliar points out how Gilberto Freyre 
notices the pervasiveness of syphilis within “patriarchal Brazil” (Scliar 176), one 
is reminded, as in “A Gra-Canaria,” that violence and brutality have plural 
forms, often fused and confused. To go back to Derrida’s quote: “to love or to 
violate, to love to violate, to colonize, and to colonize itself.” 

The mention of syphilis teases out the violence underlying the practices of 
miscegenation that led to social harmony, in Freyre’s understanding, and that 
played an important role in terms of ideological discourse. The actions required 
for the sake of the “ideal” of an immense Portugal, for the duplication and the 
projection of the ipse, are inherently contradictory. 

Thus the censors in Brazil in the 1970s are concerned about syphilis in the 
same way that the captain of the ship of the ship is obsessed with controlling 
with venereal diseases. The captain and his officials will promote the sexual ad- 
vances of the sailors (as long as with the “cuidado prescrito,” 244), with the 
concession that it can be registered in a book in the infirmary, for the order of 
the self. On its way back from an injection of patriotism in Brazil, the boat calls 
on an island oppressed by “sotainas negras” and jalangistas, historically over- 
charged as the point of departure both for Columbus voyage and for Francisco 
Franco’s rebel assault to continental Spain (briefly merged in the narrator’s point 
of view), mirroring Portugal’s colonization of others and of the self. The cap- 
tain’s mentioning of the heroic suffering of “nuestros hermanos” when attempt- 
ing to restore chaos and peace and the Jala mjistas’ behavior seem to tease out 
by rendering visible the undertones of Salazar’s governmentality, discursively 


subtler and more sophisticated (by 1938, but particularly by 1961), although no 
less repressive: the violence and repression perpetrated under the phallic trium- 
phalism of “Arriba Espana” and “Por una Espana Mayor” slogans do not go be- 
yond those made in the name of a “Portugal pluricontinental,” or “Portugal nao 
e um pais pequeno.” 

As in the ship and its network of spies, a immunitarian paradigm operates in 
the island, in which order and the safeguard of the proper (ipse) attack internal 
enemies, “leprosos,” be it “comunistas” or “paneleiros.” 10 The drive to immu- 
nization, the obsession with the protection of the ipse, not only exceeds ipseity, 
as it potentially destroys both the ipse and ipseity, leading to the paradox of auto- 
immunity (Derrida, Rogues 45). Bravo’s excessive and violent “machismo” (“sexo 
em riste” [Sena, “A Gra-Canaria” 251]), which will lead to the sexual assault of 
another sailor whom they believe to be a spy, is not an accident that befalls the 
otherwise healthy ship and can be read as more than a frustrated “internalised 
act” of violence. 11 It is, rather, the logical conclusion and the adequate punish- 
ment in conformity with the operative discourse. When Bravo mentions he will 
inscribe this rape in the book reserved for the sexual activity of the sailors, one 
is reminded that Bravo’s act is not a disruption or an accident that befalls this 
system, but its logical conclusion. The insults of Bravo are in fact a replica of the 
discourses (he adds “leproso” to the repertoire): “Seu leproso, seu filho da puta, 
quern e que e comunista?” 

Other Headings? 

The sea smells of sailors, it smells of democracy. 

— Jacques Ranciere 

Patria manifests itself by representing its self, hiding its metaphysical vacuity in 
the form of its envoys. It manifests itself by manipulating and maintaining the 
impossibility of a full circle, the fullness of ipseity, by veiling tensions and con- 
tradictions into rituals of unity, enclosing itself around the place of the father 
and against its other. The ship functions as an envoy of the ipse, inseminating 
(with) otherness. As a cap he continues war with other means via its projection 
and (mostly failed) penetrations. The topography of the South Atlantic consist- 
ing of women servicing sexual fantasies, the plunder of the young woman’s 
body in Las Palmas, the syphilis infecting colonial and (post?-colonial) patriar- 


essays Rui Miranda 

chal imaginaries are the spoils of this war by other means: “to love to violate, to 
colonize, and to colonize itself.” 

The poetico-literary performativity (Derrida and Attridge 47) of Sena’s text 
takes place in and places in check the space of the Atlantic as that of the dupli- 
cation of a Lusitanian ipse. It resists the ideological transcendental figuration 
of the Atlantic as a point of passage to the duplication of the self through colo- 
nization. The critical task, therefore, is to emphasize the eroded differences and 
disrupt the sedimented meanings implied in transcendental erasures of the 
Atlantic, which infest and are manifested in colonial, (some) postcolonial, and 
neocolonial practices and discourses. To confuse the historical “mundo que 
criou o portugues” with the imagined and imaginary, Freyre-inspired “mundo 
que o portugues criou” is to endure in textual (noncontextual) fictions. 

Fiction may act as a dismantling of fictional and imaginary spaces. A crude 
reimagined reality has the performative power to reconfigure an empirical real- 
ity beyond operating ideological fictions. The “experimentagao estilfstica” in 
this “realismo que se quis integral” is applied in the volume Os Grdo-Capitaes “a 
tornar mais reais que a realidade, e portanto tao monstruosas como o que os 
nossos olhos temem reconhecer na “realidade,” experiences vividas, testemun- 
hadas, ou adivinhadas nas confissoes involuntarias e contraditorias de alguns 
dos actores” (Sena “Prefacio” 14, 15). 

The disruption of imperial chronology is performed in the spacing of writing. 
As Sena puts it, emphasizing the necessity of the play between text and context, 
“o que escrevemos tern de ser 0 momento que escrevemos”: “Penso que escre- 
vemos para o futuro, evidentemente, mas escrevemos para o nosso tempo. E o 
que escrevemos tern de ser o momento que escrevemos” (Sena and Williams). 
The moment in which “A Gra-Canaria” was written and the moment which “A 
Gra-Canaria” writes is not one of transatlantic insemination, but one of Atlantic 

The South Atlantic that was and is presented is exposed as a political sign (in 
the sense famously expressed by Umberto Eco: everything that can be used to 
tell a lie), which configures an absolute conception of space and of politics. It 
is ideological as defined by Paul de Man, as an instance of “confusion between 
linguistic and natural reality, of reference with phenomenalism” (363). Pointing 
out the incongruity is certainly helpful but notably insufficient. The specificity 
of the Portuguese colonial case would lie not in the in-between position the 



country occupied (see Santos), but in its speciality, in the Derridean sense. As 
Calafate Ribeiro noted, “That Portuguese world [the imagined civilization cre- 
ated by the Portuguese] had been a model for all but, in reality, it never existed” 
(163). In other words, there is no father(land) drawn across the seas, merely the 
projection of an absent father heightened by the recuperation of otherness into 
the self. The spectral effect, in Derridean terms, of the legal formality of the 
Constitutional Revision of 1951, the “traces” of this form “in the materiality of 
social life,” must certainly be noted if an effective criticism of ideology is to 
take place (Zizek 128). If ideology is constructed by language, the “linguistics 
of literariness” becomes necessary in order to trace a critique and resist it (de 
Man 363). 

The veering into the Atlantic, the sea itself, acts as a dislocation from the cap 
and the ship as the institutors of discourse, as the proxy father figures of iden- 
tity. It is also a resistance to the projection and integration of alterity into same- 
ness as well as to colonial projections and reproductions. It is an attempt at a 
reading that does not begin with the “father,” be it Camoes, the Portuguese, or 
colonial desires and projections. It may configure a critique and a criticism of 
discourses that are still present now. This dislocated reading of “A Gra-Canaria” 
contributes to rendering the South Atlantic visible as a political space. If the sea 
has traditionally been perceived (as Esposito reminds us) as the space of the 
improper to be sublimated, then its sublimation — the establishing of a self and 
its projected other, to be sublimated into the self — is what is interrupted in “A 
Gra-Canaria.” After all, it would be extremely naive to believe that the “South 
Atlantic” is not to some extent always already textual(ized), a product of reading 
and writing. It has been the purpose of this reading to take into address the 
spacing when confronting topographies of otherness and the projection of the 
self, to stress the tensions, contradictions, and the limits of discourses keen on 
establishing and marking the borders between a self and its others. 

The ending of “A Gra-Canaria” is a reminder that the sea is not a blank or a 
transcendental space, an obstacle to be overcome in the voyage of the self. The 
three companions, after their pilgrimage into a distorted “Island of Love,” now 
look out to the sea, after departing from Las Palmas, discussing their location 
and attempting to discern a route. The Atlantic, in this configuration which “A 
Gra-Canaria” and Calabar: 0 elogio da traifao denounce by distorting, is the site 
of production of differences; it marks the distance which is the condition for 
the possibility of any construct. Distance and separation are not an obstacle to 

essays Rui Miranda 

the realization of the ipse, but its necessary condition. Distance and separation 
are the deferring and the differing of ipseity. There is no insemination without 


I am indebted to the Centro de Estudos Sociais (Universidade de Coimbra and the 
Universita di Bologna), in particular to Roberto Vecchi and Margarida Calafate Ribeiro, 
who have developed groundbreaking research work and initiatives addressing the notion 
of the South Atlantic. 

1. As Margarida Calafate Ribeiro notes, “The corner stone of a national resurrection 
was a return to the original values of the Portuguese imperial adventure” (158). The 1940 
exposition of the “Mundo Portugues,” for instance, celebrated the Portuguese maritime 
expansion by focusing on the colonial possessions. If not consciously aware of this leg- 
acy, the 1998 World Exposition held in Lisbon put forth an ambiguous discourse regard- 
ing the Portuguese maritime expansion. It hardly disguised a triumphant and celebratory 
tone, as it now focused on the “encontro de culturas” brought along by the maritime 
expansion, allowing for parallel criticisms to take place in the analysis of the 1940 and 
1998 international events (Almeida m-57, 187-220). 

2. Luis Madureira presents a succinct and insightful reading, based on Yves Leonard’s 
historical work, which lays out this relationship along with the shortcomings of Gilberto 
Freyre’s thought and of the Estado Novo’s political exploitation of Freyre’s ideas in order 
to legitimate colonial polices (“The Empire’s” 138-45). 

3. Nicholas Royle argues in his latest book that all literature features some instance 
of veering (viii, ix). I take this veering, voluntary or not, as a product of literature’s iter- 
ability and excess; in other words, “meaning is context bound — a function of relations 
within of between texts — but that context itself is boundless” (Culler 120). Veering can 
indicate voluntary and involuntary action, conscious and unconscious, passive or active, 
and therefore is an apt term for such a procedure. 

4. The structuring and the ideology of a self-sufficient and autotelic self (ipse) is what 
is questioned by this term, as defined by Jacques Derrida: “By ipseity I thus wish to sug- 
gest some ‘I can,’ or at the very least the power thatyiues itself its own law, its force of law, 
its self-representation, the sovereign and reappropriating gathering of the self in the si- 
multaneity of an assemblage or assembly, being together or ‘living together,’ as we say” 
(Royues n). 

5. According to David Harvey, the political implications of conceptions of absolute 
spacetime (as with relative or relational) must not be ignored (see Harvey). 

6. There is a particular topography being drawn here (which also includes Dakar) as 
a projection of self-obsession, as nothing more than the projection of the desires of the 



(collective) ipse: “Mais tarde, na memoria deles, os portos confundir-se-iam numa de- 
scorada nevoa”; “numa so imagem, as vezes composita de recordagoes alheias, cujas 
semelhangas e coincidences as amalgavam” (Sena, “A Gra-Canaria” 213). 

7. The narrator displays himself fully as a conquistador: “Dai em diante, eu pos- 
suiria, poderia possuir quando quisesse, que maravilha” (Sena, “A Gra-Canaria” 237). 

8. The captain acts as the king toward the subjects (Sena, “A Gra-Canaria” 219). He 
leads the ship, “sozinho como sempre,” as if it were a “biblical enterprise,” “guiada de 
Lisboa a telegramas cifrados.” The ship represents Portugal (218) in the same way that 
the island represents Spain: “urn arquipelago tao tradicionalmente espanhol como os 
Azores sao portugueses” (217). 

9. The epigraph of “Capangala nao responde” (set in “Africa, 1961” during the Colo- 
nial Wars) — the passage from Hesiod’s Theogony in which the penis of Uranus is thrown 
and left to drift in the sea — is a reminder, as is “Gra-Canaria,” of the political “castra- 
tion” the country (and its colonies; the intra and the Ultramar) suffered under the Estado 
Novo (Sena “PS 1974” 12). 

10. Portugal and Spain are bulwarks of Christian and conservative values now, fight- 
ing against the “forgas desencadeadas do comunismo internacional” (Sena, “A Gra- 
Canaria” 217). Even the narrator falls within this discourse: when he is told of the conflict 
and turmoil in the girl’s family, either dead or locked away in the sanatorium for those 
with “leprosy” of the soul, the narrator has, instinctively, a rather irrational reaction of 
fear of being contaminated by the disease. 

11. Anthony Soares’s reading of this passage is perceptive: “When Sena’s narratives 
conjoin violence with sexual activity, they become evidence of the frustration that the 
imposition of a colonizing identity provokes which, as it cannot be directed against the 
regime that promotes that identity, seeks relief through internalised acts” (“The violent 
maintenance of the Portuguese colonial identity” 85). 


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ident idade. Lisbon: Instituto Piaget, 2005. 

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Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003. 

Blackmore, Josiah. Moorings: Portuguese Expansion and the Writing of Africa. Minneapolis: 
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Buarque, Chico, and Ruy Guerra. Calabar: 0 elogio da traigao. Rio de Janeiro: Civilizagao 
Brasileira, 1975. 


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Translated by Vera Lucia Mello Joscelyne. Sao Paulo: Paz e Terra, 2011. 

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63 (1982). Reprinted in Modern Criticism and Theory, ed. David Lodge, 355-371. 
London: Longman, 1988. 

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Pascale-Anne Brault and Michael B. Naas. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 

. “Positions: Interview with Jean-Louis Houdebine and Guy Scarpetta.” 

Translated by Alan Bass. Positions: Information sur Ies siences sociales 7 (2 June 1968). 
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. Royues: Two Essays on Reason. Translated by Pascale-Anne Brault and Michael 

Naas. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005. 

. “Semiology and Grammatology: Interview with Julia Kristeva.” Translated by 

Alan Bass. Positions: Information sur les sciences sociales 7 (3 June 1968). Reprinted in 
Positions, 15-36. London: Athlone, 1981. 

Derrida, Jacques, and Derek Attridge. “This Strange Institution Called Literature — an 
Interview with Jacques Derrida.” In Jacques Derrida: Acts of Literature, ed. Derek 
Attridge, 33-75. New York: Routledge, 1992. 

Esposito, Roberto. Communitas: The Origin and Destiny o/Community. Translated by 
Timothy Campbell. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2010. 

. Comunidad, inmunidad y biopolitica. Translated by Alicia Garcia Ruiz. Edited by 

Manuel Cruz. Barcelona:Herder, 2009. 

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Gra-Canaria’ as Parody of Camoens’s Isle of Love.” Portuguese Studies 10 (1994): 

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Freedom, 133-165. New York: Columbia University Press, 2009. 

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Imagem e miragem da Lusojonia. 3rd ed., 161-172. Lisbon: Gradiva, 2004. 



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da Lusofonia, 3rd ed., 173-182. Lisbon: Gradiva, 2004. 

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essays Rui Miranda 

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Afrontamento, 2010. 

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rui Miranda is a lecturer in the Department of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin Amer- 
ican Studies of the University of Nottingham. He holds a PhD in Lusophone studies and 
has taught Portuguese literature and cinema in Nottingham and at Queen Mary College, 
University of London. He was also a postdoctoral research fellow (Fundagao de Ciencia e 
Tecnologia) in the Centro de Estudos Humamsticos (Universidade do Minho) and the 
University of Nottingham. Recent publications include “Masters and Spectres, Pessoa’s 
Haunts” (in Pessoa in an Intertextual Web: Injluence and Innovation [Legenda, 2012]) and 
“Restor(y)ing Meaning: Reading Manoel de Oliveira’s Non ou a Va Gloria de Mandar” (in 
Hispanic Research Journal, 2013). He can be reached 



“Sertao Dentro” 

The Backhands in Early Modern Portuguese Writings 

abstract: This article investigates uses of the term sertao in the writings of Portu- 
guese travelers to America, Africa, and Asia in the sixteenth century. By comparing 
lexicon and discursive devices where the term is employed, this study aims to ex- 
plore the distinct levels of certainty and speculation expressed by their authors 
while writing about what cannot yet be seen in their predominantly coastal jour- 
neys. I discuss variations and patterns in the description of a remote and somewhat 
unreachable sertao and consider how their use in chronicles about Brazil might 
have started to give form to the way the sertao would be later understood by Brazil- 
ian authors. 

keywords: Backlands, Portuguese chronicles, sixteenth century 

Nos rios do Sertao, se existe, 
a agua cor re despenteada. 

— Joao Cabral de Melo Neto, “Poema(s) da cabra” 

The Brazilian Sertao and the Sertao Everywhere 

In her essay “Anotagoes a margem do regionalismo” (“Notes in the Margin of 
Regionalism,” 1996), Walnice Nogueira Galvao makes the point that “nossas 
letras, focalizando seu interesse no interior, se desenrolam como se nao eman- 
assem de um pais com oito mil quildmetros de litoral. Tudo se passa como se os 
portugueses voltassem as costas ao continente, enquanto se langam aos mares, 
e os brasileiros voltassem as costas aos mares, enquanto direcionam suas ind- 
agagoes para o interior” (45). 1 

In fact, a quick look at some major Brazilian works would confirm Galvao’s 
words. An immediate example quoted by Galvao is Euclides da Cunha’s Os sertoes 
(Rebellion in the Backlands, 1902), with the well-known prediction from Antonio 
Conselheiro that “o sertao virara praia e a praia virara sertao” (45). 2 Or we can 

essays Victoria Saramago 

go back to the eighteenth century, when, in his epic poem Caramuru (written in 
1781), Santa Rita Durao bases his writing on a Camonian model but, instead 
of the mares nunca dantes navzQa&os? narrates the adventures of the Portuguese 
known as Caramuru in the strtao uasto 4 or sertao /undo, 5 as the author repeatedly 
refers to the region. 

We can also recall Riobaldo’s words in Joao Guimaraes Rosa’s Grande Sertao: 
Veredas (The Demi to Pay in the Bacldands, 1956): “A gente tern de sair do sertao! Mas 
so se sai do sertao e tomando conta dele a dentro . . . Agora perdi. Estou preso” 
(391). 6 The impossibility of the character’s leaving the sertao seems to be pro- 
portional to the difficulty of entering into it expressed by early Portuguese trav- 
elers. At the same time, the hesitation expressed by the travelers regarding how 
to navigate the area and what they would find in its deep, vast lands reverberates 
in Riobaldo’s awareness of its uncontrollable character: “Todos que malmon- 
tam no sertao so alcangam de reger em redea por uns trechos; que sorrateiro o 
sertao vai virando tigre debaixo da sela” (532). 7 In fact, as I propose in this ar- 
ticle, the remoteness and indeterminacy of the Brazilian sertao is already sug- 
gested in Pero Vaz de Caminha’s letter — that is, in the very first account of what 
would become Brazil. 8 

The bacldands referred to by Caminha, however, are significantly closer to 
the ocean than those mentioned decades later by Gabriel Soares de Souza, for 
example. They are even more distinct from the sertao explored by the bandeiras 9 
during the colonial period, the expeditions of the nineteenth century, or the 
sertao depicted at the turn of the twentieth century by Euclides da Cunha, or even 
Joao Guimaraes Rosa’s later sertao. In the case of Brazil, as the frontier moves 
to the interior, the sertao cannot be applied to a specific region or to any definite 
delimitations. Rather, it is a moving category. As Antonio Carlos R. Moraes 
argues in “O sertao: Um ‘outro’ geografico” (“The Bacldand: A Geographical 
‘Other,’” 2009), “O sertao nao e uma materialidade da superficie terrestre, mas 
uma realidade simbolica: uma ideologia geografica” (89). 10 

This geographically ideological aspect becomes even clearer when, by cross- 
ing the Atlantic Ocean and eventually the Cape of Good Hope, we find the in- 
lands of what currently are Mozambique, Ethiopia, and India, for example, being 
referred to as sertoes. Consequently, when we talk about the sertao, we are talking 
about these places that, by their distance from the coast and the difficulties in- 
volved in entering them, configure a void for the European view in the early mod- 
ern period. 11 If the notion of sertao cannot be attached to a specific geographic 


region, it presumably does not have to be attached to a Brazilian setting. How- 
ever, do the depictions of African and Asian sertoes revolve around this remote- 
ness and inaccessibility that would fundamentally mark this notion in Brazil? 

In this study, I examine some of the basic attributes and discursive devices 
associated with the sertao in sixteenth-century Portuguese chronicles set in 
Brazil, Africa, and Asia. I want to investigate whether the hermetic quality that 
makes this space initially closed to Portuguese presence and exploration in the 
Americas is also present in chronicles focused on other continents. Following 
this idea, I have two main objectives: to expand the studies on the sertao beyond 
Brazil and back into the early modern period; and to consider how some partic- 
ular aspects of its early descriptions might help to understand the features and 
the importance of bacldand areas in a Brazilian context. 

This movement outward from and inward to the Brazilian sertao consists of 
four parts and a conclusion. I will first offer a brief overview of early uses of the 
term in Portuguese writings. Second, I will focus on the lexicon generally asso- 
ciated with the sertao. In the third section, I will discuss some discursive strate- 
gies used by the authors in order to show either a broader or more limited 
knowledge of the sertoes to which they refer. In the fourth section, I make use 
ofMichel Foucault’s insights into sixteenth-century epistemology to discuss the 
different levels of commitment to accuracy adopted by the authors. Finally, my 
conclusion will point out some reasons for which this study might be helpful 
in understanding the term in Brazil. 

The Sertao in Portuguese Accounts: An Overview 

The word sertao probably has its origin in the term desertao: a large desert or a 
scarcely inhabited and mapped area. 12 In fact, the term sertao was already used to 
designate the Portuguese interior in the late Middle Ages. However, according to 
Janama Amado in “Regiao, sertao, nagao” (“Backlands, Region, Nation,” 1995), 
it was from the fifteenth century onward that “usaram-na tambem para nomear 
espagos vastos, interiores, situados dentro das possessoes recem-conquistadas 
ou contiguos a elas, sobre os quais pouco ou nada sabiam” (147). 13 

An early example of the use of the term to describe overseas territories is 
found in the Cronica da tomada de Ceuta (Chronicle of Ceuta's Conquest), concluded 
in 1450 by the royal chronicler Gomes Eanes Zurara, and narrates the emblem- 
atic conquest of Ceuta in 1415. The term appears in an explanation of the city’s 
geography: “a cidade pela maior parte e cercada d’agua, onde tinha assaz segu- 

essays Victoria Saramago 

ranga, e aquele pequeno espago que ficava da parte do sertao, nao lhe cumpria 
melhor guarda” (97). 14 This single use of the word contrasts with its multiple 
occurrence in Zurara’s next work, Cronica do descobrimento e conquista da Guine 
(Chronicle of the Discovery and Conquest of Guinea, 1453), where it also works as a 
counterpoint to the sea. It is interesting to take note of some of the phrases that 
would later become frequent in describing the sertao, such as “tres aldeias, que 
eram assaz dentro pelo sertao” (208) 15 or “o rastro ia contra o sertao” (345). 16 

While it has only one occurrence in Alvaro Velho’s travelogue of Vasco da 
Gama’s first and pioneering journey to East Africa and India in 1497, 17 it is rela- 
tively frequent in Tome Pires’s Suma Oriental (Summary of the Orient, 1515), one of 
the oldest Portuguese chronicles about Asia. It appears many times in the phrase 
da banda do sertao , 18 which is also common in Fernao Lopes de Castanheda’s 
H istoria do descobrimento e conquista da India pelos Portugeses (History of the Discouery 
and Conquest of India by the Portuguese, 1551). Fernao Mendes Pinto, in his Peregri- 
na^do (Pilgrimage, 1614), often prefers to use no interior do sertao 19 or no amago do 
sertao. 20 

In Castanheda’s work, a curious example of a typical way of regarding the 
sertao is his reference to Meca: “a sete leguas desta cidade [de Iuda] pelo sertao 
esta a maldita casa de Meca, a que os mouros fazem suas romarias” (22). 21 One 
of the most frequent forms for describing what the Portuguese have found or 
expect to find inland is in terms of the coast as the main point of view, and the 
distance from a city or geographical point of interest measured in leagues with 
little or no indication concerning the direction to be taken within the backlands. 
This is how, for instance, Mendes Pinto describes the kingdom of Siam: “tern 
por sua graduagao quase setecentas leguas de costa, e cento e sessenta de lar- 
gura no sertao” (413). 22 

This pattern is also repeated in the chronicles about America, especially when 
inland journeys start to take place. In his Tratado descritivo do Brasil [Descriptive 
Treatise on Brazil, 1587) Gabriel Soares de Souza adds to these phrases and de- 
vices some mentions of courses of rivers 23 and of latitudes, such as in the work’s 
opening paragraph: “a provincia do Brasil esta situada alem da linha equinocial 
da parte do sul, [ . . . ] e vai correndo esta linha pelo sertao desta provincia ate 
45 graus, pouco mais ou menos” (41). 24 On the other hand, Fernao Cardim uses 
much less specific terms or data in his accounts: “e se espalharam por uma 
corda do sertao” (172) 25 or “nao se estendem pelo sertao adentro mais de meia 
legua ate uma legua” (262). 26 



As one can notice, certain patterns of description cross centuries and con- 
tinents, but accounts of relatively close areas even within the interval of a few 
decades can differ significantly from each other. Undoubtedly, these variations 
and recurrences follow the diversity of aims and profiles of their authors. I want 
to suggest, nevertheless, that the accounts of the sertao in Brazil tend to differ 
from those of Portuguese presence in Africa and Asia in terms of their certainty 
about what they can find. Although exceptions could be pointed out, I propose 
to show, in the next pages, that the former usually seems to be much less sure of 
what is in the sertao than the latter. This leads to a more speculative and skepti- 
cal tone, reflected in a more common use of indirect discourse and hypothetical 
sentences instead of more direct assertions. 

In order to study these two trends in more detail, I am going to concentrate 
my analysis on the uses of the term sertao in four works from the sixteenth cen- 
tury. By approaching only passages where the term is present, I will necessarily 
leave out of consideration a series of related words and expressions, such as 
interior (interior), na terra (on land), or dentro (inside). 27 The works concerning 
Africa and Asia to be discussed here are, respectively, Duarte Barbosa’s 0 liuro 
de Duarte Barbosa (The Book ojDuarte Barbosa, 1517) and the first volume ofjoao de 
Barros’s Decadas de Asia (Decades of Asia, 1552), especially the description of the 
kingdom ofMonomotapa. On the Brazilian side, I will examine the Carta de Pero 
Vaz de Caminha (The Letter of Pero Vaz de Caminha, 1500) and Pero de Magalhaes 
Gandavo’s Histo'ria da prowncia de Santa Cruz (History of Santa Cruz Province, 1576). 
The former was, predictably, the first European document to refer to the Brazil- 
ian sertao, and the second was written two decades after the foundation of Sao 
Paulo de Piratininga in 1554. 

No interior do sertao: Lexicon and Phrases 

As Maria Elisa N. S. Mader notes in 0 uazio: 0 sertao no imaginario da colonia nos 
seculos XVI e XVII (The Emptiness: The Backlands in Colonial Imaginary in the Sixteenth 
and Seventeenth Centuries, 1995), the sertao was mainly understood as an unex- 
plored place and, for this reason, “um vazio povoado de imagens construidas a 
partir dos elementos existentes no seu imaginario [portugues]” (19). 28 But how 
is this sensation of emptiness, of unknowability and of resistance to Portuguese 
exploration, created? 

The first aspect to be taken into account is the redundancy with which the 
sertao’s remoteness and indeterminacy are reaffirmed. The very term sertao, as 

essays Victoria Saramago 

we have seen, already implies inwardness in relation to the coast. Nevertheless, 
these authors’ mentions of the sertao are recurrently accompanied by other 
terms that reinforce this aspect. 

Gandavo is perhaps the one who most prolifically uses intensifying terms 
adjoined to his references to the backhands. Some examples are “alguns deles 
nascem no interior do sertao” (g); 29 “e nao se acham senao pelo sertao dentro 
muito longe” (23); 30 “matos e alagadigos geram — se [ . . . ] pelo sertao dentro 
infinitos” (24); 31 and “[aconteceu de os mdios] meterem — se pelo sertao den- 
tro” (46). 32 From these passages (and one could easily cite many more), we gain 
an idea of how Gandavo frequently seems to be dissatisfied with the implica- 
tions of the term sertao itself, to the point of creating redundancies by reinforcing 
them with words such as interior and dentro, and the phrase meter-se pel 0 sertao. 33 
After all, we could not have a szrtao fora 3,4 or an exterior do sertao 35 — these would 
be references to the coast. Consequently, not only does this intensifying strategy 
end up by making even more explicit the threshold between interior and exte- 
rior; it also gives the former an unknowable quality, as if whatever is inside the 
sertao would be locked inside a box. 

Speaking of the sertao as a kind of locked box, however, raises another con- 
sequence: as a geographically movable category, any idea of the sertao’s bound- 
aries would be initially undetermined. By being beyond the limits of the Euro- 
pean gaze, its borders exist necessarily only on the side of the coast. In contrast to 
Gandavo’s famous comparison of the Brazilian coast to a harp (7), which would 
function as a sort of limitation of frontiers, the phrase meter-se pelo sertao still 
brings about the idea of infinitude, as if some ends of the box were invisible — as 
they actually were. In this sense, it is interesting that Mendes Pinto uses the ex- 
pression “a porta do sertao” (184), 36 as if to suggest this one-sided limit. 

Pero Vaz de Caminha, on the other hand, does not use such intensifies in his 
letter. Shorter than Gandavo’s text, it mentions the sertao only two times — but 
each occurrence is very significant. The occurrence reads as follows: “os arvore- 
dos sao mui, muitos e grandes, e de infindas maneiras; nao duvido que por esse 
sertao haja muitas aves!” (103). 37 The second reads: “pelo sertao nos pareceu do 
mar muito grande, porque a estender olhos nao podfamos ver senao terra com 
arvoredos, que nos parecia mui longa” (12). 38 

As we can see, the sertao is built in Caminha as what cannot be seen. For 
being a first contact with American territories, incursions into the sertao dentro 
are not yet a real possibility. The sertao appears in this case as an extensive wall 


of vegetation blocking Portuguese vision, and Caminha explicitly stresses his 
limited point of view — from the sea. Moreover, when speculating about what 
could be beyond the wall of trees, Caminha uses phrases such as ado duuido que 
or nos pareceu. The latter phrase is repeated throughout the letter, sometimes 
to establish an analogy, sometimes to introduce an opinion or an impression. 
When related to the territory, it manifests exactly this state of ignorance that can 
only be dealt with by imagining what could be beyond his vision — in this case, 
a huge land or countless parrots. 

Differently from Caminha but similarly to Gandavo, Duarte Barbosa does not 
face the surprise of the very first contact, but tries to map and describe territo- 
ries about which the Portuguese were still largely ignorant and with which they 
had had only an indirect contact. Starting in the Cabo de Sao Sebastiao in south- 
eastern Africa and ending in the Lequeos country in India, the sections of Bar- 
bosa’s account typically begin with the phrase indo ao longo da costa, with a fol- 
lowing description of the coast and then of the landscape, as well as the people 
expected to be found farther inland. 

Most of these factual or hypothetical incursions to the sertao are introduced 
with more or less the same terms used by Gandavo. For instance: “entao fugi- 
ram muitos deles caminho do sertao” (28) ; 39 “ha muito ouro que vem de dentro 
do sertao” (31) ; 40 “distante deste porto de Juda uma jornada pelo sertao, esta 
a grande cidade de Meca” (35); 41 “e 0 rei esta sempre dentro no sertao” (38); 42 
“pelo sertao dela [da terra de Xaer] e tudo habitado de alarves” (41) ; 43 and “desta 
cidade de Champanel contra o sertao esta outra muito maior que ela” (62). 44 

We have already seen how Barbosa, like Gandavo, uses the “dentro do sertao” 
construction to emphasize this space’s opposition to the coast. Barbosa also 
uses expressions certainly incompatible with Gandavo’s understanding of the 
Brazilian bacldands. I am referring to the fact that Barbosa’s sertao has a 
caminho and cities and that one can go “contra o sertao.” 45 In other words, in- 
stead of this unknown sort of box closed by a barrier of vegetation, Barbosa’s 
African sertao frequently has paths and cities that can be traveled and reached. 
Even when the author has not personally been to the places he describes, he still 
has a much clearer way of grasping what can be found there. In fact, an author 
such as Gabriel Soares de Souza, in many aspects more confident than Caminha 
and Gandavo in his affirmations about the sertao, tends to map the sertao in a 
similar fashion to Barbosa, but he does so mainly when the course of a river 
is being followed. What we have in Barbosa’s case, therefore, is a view of the 

essays Victoria Saramago 

sertao as something explorable, though mostly untouched by the Portuguese, 
and whose possibilities of colonization and exploitation are visibly more imme- 
diate than those of the Brazilian sertao. 

Joao de Barros’s view of the African sertao is similar to Barbosa’s, but he 
adds some complexity to his account. The first two appearances of the sertao in 
Barros’s immense text are part of the expression “sertao da terra” 46 (i:io, 1:19). 
It is curious that Barros uses this phrase to refer to Portugal’s inland country 
and the region near Ceuta (Morocco). Barros seem to reserve the expression 
sertao da terra mainly for relatively familiar places, as in the case of Portugal’s 
own inland territory and the land surrounding a North African city that had been 
ruled by the Portuguese for over a century. 

When Barros leaves Portugal and its colonial dominions, the phrase sertao da 
terra also ceases to be used so frequently: “e estes sao os de dentro do sertao” 
(i:8i); 47 “que entretanto elas entrassem pelo sertao” (i:i86); 48 “deixou as terras 
do sertao e veio buscar os portos do mar” (1:203) ; 49 “a qual cidade jaz ( . . . ) 
metida dentro do sertao por distancia de cento e quarenta leguas” (i:259); 50 “urn 
deles era ausentado, e metido pelo sertao” (1:305). 51 Sertao da terra reappears 
only twice, in the kingdom of Congo (1:235) and when the Portuguese had al- 
ready arrived in India (1:325). 

Barros’s use of the term sertao does not seem to differ fundamentally from 
that of Caminha and Gandavo. However, it is interesting to notice that the sertao 
is employed mostly to designate lands in Portugal and Ceuta, differently from 
the other authors approached here. Moreover, Barros tends to establish a differ- 
ence between the familiar sertao da terra and the more mysterious dentro do 
sertao. 52 

Certainty and Speculation 

What are the discursive devices by which the Portuguese chroniclers introduce 
what they believe to exist or at least know that they do not know? Duarte Barbosa 
offers the following: 

No mesmo sitio destes lugares de mouros, entrando pelo sertao, esta um mui 
grande reino do Preste Joao, a que os mouros chamam 0 Abexim, que e mui 
grande e mui formoso de terras. Ha nele muita gente, e tern muitos reinos ao 
redor sujeitos a si, que estao a seu mandado e debaixo da sua governanga. 



Barbosa goes on to add: “Em toda esta costa ha muito ouro que vem de dentro 
do sertao do grande reino do Abexim, que e terra do Preste Joao” (31). 54 

At first glance, such descriptions seem to be made by somebody who has ei- 
ther personally been to the kingdom of Prester John or received a very accurate 
report by an eyewitness. The sentences are assertions in direct discourse that 
use the present indicative and do not suggest any doubt concerning the valid- 
ity of the content — there would not be space, for example, for phrases such as 
parece-me que 55 or duuido que, 56 as used by Caminha. Nevertheless, not only had 
Barbosa never actually been to the sertao he so confidently describes, but its re- 
ality proved to be quite distinct when, a few years later, in 1520, the Portuguese 
actually entered the sertao where the legendary Christian king was believed to 
reside. As Charles Boxer (1969) explains: “When [the Portuguese, under the 
leadership of Pedro de Covilha] finally made contact with the Negus of Abys- 
sinia in 1520, they were naturally disappointed to find that Prester John was only 
the semi-barbarous potentate of a poor highland kingdom” (36). 

In chapter 1 of book 10 of the first Decada, Barros describes in similar terms 
the kingdom of Monomotapa, often referred by him as Benomotapa, which 
would be located in the backlands of Mozambique, in the region of Sofala. Even 
though, according to Melyn Newitt in A History of Mozambique, Barros had never 
been to East Africa (39), he comfortably writes that “toda terra, que contamos 
por reino de Sofala, e uma grande regiao, que senhoreia um principe chamado 
Benomotapa, a qual abragam em modo de ilha dois bravos de um rio, que pro- 
cede do mais notavel lago, que toda a terra de Africa tern [...]. Pela qual parte 
podemos dizer ser este grao lago mais vizinho ao nosso oceano ocidental, que 
ao oriental, segundo a situagao de Ptolomeu” (372-373). 57 

He then goes on to add that the majority of the rivers in Benomotapa “levam 
muito ouro, que nasce nela. [ . . . ] deste rio Cuame ate o Cabo das Correntes 
por dentro do sertao e terra excelente; temperada, sadia, fresca, fertil de todas as 
coisas, que se nela produzem” (374-375). 58 

As Newitt puts it, Barros’s description of East Africa essentially constitutes 
“trying to fit the new geographical knowledge into the traditional Ptolemaic ge- 
ography of Africa” (East Africa 36). Beyond the influence of Ptolemy, Portuguese 
explorers and travel writers were so fascinated by the Spanish discovery of silver 
and gold in the Americas that the desire to repeat their fortune led to the myth of 
a rich Monomotapa: “they imagined [ . . . ] that this monarchy rivaled the great 


essays Victoria Saramago 

empires of the Aztecs and the Incas [...]; the reality, however, was somewhat 
different” (Newitt, A History 39). 

However inaccurate early Portuguese descriptions of the sertao might ap- 
pear to our contemporary eyes, they nonetheless reveal a great deal about the 
fundamental “interweaving of language and things” that formed the sixteenth- 
century episteme as described by Michel Foucault in The Order of Things (38). I 
will later concentrate on this issue, but for the moment let us recall Caminha’s 
second mention of the sertao: “Pelo sertao nos pareceu do mar muito grande 
porque a estender olhos nao podiamos ver senao terra com arvoredos que nos 
parecia mui longa terra. Nela ate agora nao pudemos saber que haja ouro nem 
prata nela nem nenhuma coisa de metal nem de ferro, nem Iho vimos, mas a 
terra em si e de muito bons ares frescos e temperados como os de Entre-Douro- 
e-Minho porque neste tempo d’agora assim os achavamos como os de la” (12). 59 

The contrast between this account and the terms in which Barros and Bar- 
bosa write about the African sertao is striking. Instead of relying on others’ ac- 
counts and incorporating legends and ancient systems to what he sees, Caminha 
limits himself to make assertions concerning what he can actually see. When 
the area at stake is beyond his gaze, he systematically uses the verb parecer or 
states clearly that he does not know (for example, whether there are precious 
metals in the land). As Alessandro Zir argues in Luso-Brazilian Encounters of the 
Sixteenth Century: A Styles of Thinking Approach (2011): “Caminha explicitly and pe- 
culiarly intersperses his own doubts among the external happenings he wit- 
nesses. The undeniable result is that what the Indians and the land truly had to 
offer is [ . . . ] eluded in Caminha’s account — eluded in the sense of being with- 
drawn in the same movement it was supposedly shown” (23, Zir’s italics). The 
wall of trees thus functions almost as another rhetorical device that allows him 
to leave “all possibilities in abeyance” (23). 

One might claim that, since Caminha is in his first contact with something 
totally new, it is reasonable to expect him to be more reticent and less commit- 
ted to previous suppositions than Barros and Barbosa, who had to deal with a 
whole apparatus of beliefs, legends, and theories. In this sense, Gandavo’s work 
may draw interesting connections with Caminha’s letter. Gandavo writes almost 
eighty years later than Caminha, decades after Barbosa and Barros, and when 
the Portuguese were incomparably more established in the Brazil; however, in 
the last part of his Tratado, titled “Das grandes riquezas que se esperam da terra 



do sertao” (“On the Great Riches We Expect to Find in the Earth of the Back- 
lands”), he states, “Esta Provincia Santa Cruz, alem de ser tao fertil como digo, 
e abastada de todos os mantimentos necessarios para a vida do homem, e certo 
ser tambem mui rica, e haver nela muito ouro e pedraria, de que se tern grandes 
esperangas. E a maneira como isto se veio a denunciar e ter por causa averiguada 
foi por via dos Indios da terra” (46). 60 

Gandavo is evidently much more certain about the presence of precious met- 
als in the Americas than Caminha could be, and he affirms that they do exist 
because he saw Indians bringing them from the sertao. Instead of using direct 
speech and present-tense affirmations, he tells the story of a group of Indians 
who seem to have walked to Peru and back carrying gold and precious stones. 
However fantastic the notion of a Peru so close to Brazil’s eastern coast may 
seem, it is nonetheless within the realm of the possible for Gandavo’s readers. 
And it is qualified as an account based on what the Indians themselves said — 
Gandavo does not take their words as his own. Here is another example of how 
he understands the Indians’ words: “Alem da certeza que por esta via temos [the 
Indians that Gandavo believes to have arrived in Peru] ha outros muitos indios 
na terra que tao bem afirmam haver no sertao muito ouro, os quais posto que 
sao gente de pouca fe e verdade, da-se-lhes credito nesta parte, porque acerca 
disto os mais deles sao contestes, e falam em diversas partes por uma boca” (38). 
Even though Gandavo ends up validating the Indians’ words, he does not do so 
before exposing his doubts and his reasons for not wholly believing in them — 
they might not be faithful and truthful, but the fact that so many people attest 
the same information serves for him as evidence. Nevertheless, he keeps their 
discourse explicitly separated from his, and does not defend unconditionally the 
existence of gold and other richness. How, therefore, can we think about this 
distinction arisen in the approaches to African and Brazilian backlands? 

Seeking Signs 

To describe how the Europeans understood the new region they traveled to and 
its peculiarities, HelderMacedo (2009) notes that “it was best to record what was 
imaginable, placing both what was actually there and what was not on the same 
imaginary plane, where expectation precedes knowledge, interpretation is su- 
perimposed on observation, and analogy neutralizes difference” (178). In many 
senses, this is also how Foucault understands the sixteenth-century episteme, 
in which “the nature of things, their coexistence, the way in which they are linked 


essays Victoria Saramago 

together and communicate is nothing other than their resemblance. And that 
resemblance is visible only in the network of signs that crosses the world from 
one end to the other” (28). Thus the process of knowing would be based on 
identifying resemblances among visible signs in “an endless zigzag course” (30) 
that continues in a macrocosmic level. This leads to a nondistinction between 
things and writing, since the interpretation of something is already part of it. 
This is why, when the chroniclers try to explain the areas Europeans have not 
been to before, they rely mostly on analogies, since the resemblance between 
the two terms being compared would serve as a parameter for knowledge. 

In general, the writers discussed here make frequent use of such analogies. 
Barros, for instance, bases his description of Central Africa on the Ptolemaic 
system. As Newitt notes, the information he provides is often extraordinarily 
accurate (East Africa 37), but in this case, it is accurate within a specific episteme. 
Similarly, Caminha frequently uses the verb parecer to establish analogies, such 
as the following: “urn ramal grande de continhas brancas, miudas que querem 
parecer de aljofar” (2). 61 

Nevertheless, the examples provided in the last two sections pose a problem 
concerning how the chroniclers conceptualize the sertao. All of them seem to 
agree on depicting the sertao as a closed, somewhat more remote and mysteri- 
ous space, but chronicles about Africa and Asia tend to be more assertive and 
confident about what can be found in the sertao, whereas the texts on the Bra- 
zilian sertao tend to be more speculative and hesitant. 

Many factors might shed light on the question. For example, the Portuguese 
had received news from Africa and Asia many decades before they actually man- 
aged to go there, whereas America had remained unknown until 1492. Moreover, 
because they were much more oriented toward the Indian Ocean than toward 
the western side of the Atlantic, the interest in exploring the Brazilian sertao 
would remain significantly lower in this period. 

Zir makes a clarifying point concerning especially Soares de Sousa, but also 
to a certain degree Gandavo and Caminha, according to which “we would have, 
thus, already in the sixteenth century, an example of cognitive undertakings that 
Michel Foucault would locate in the seventeenth century” (44). Thus even though 
a series of legends and assumptions approximated the Portuguese understand- 
ing of the Brazilian sertao to the African and Asian ones, 62 the way they are ex- 
posed by the chroniclers remains relatively alien to the writing of newly discov- 
ered territories in the sixteenth century. 


In his Visao do Paraiso (Vision of Paradise, 1969), Sergio Buarque de Holanda 
argues that the Portuguese tend to rely on immediate experience rather than on 
legends and beliefs when describing the Americas, so that their attitude “quase 
exclui a surpresa” (236) : 63 “se parecem acolher, aqui e ali noticias inverossimeis 
e fabulosas sobre os segredos do sertao, fazem-no de ordinario com discreta 
reserva. [ . . . ] E assim quando cedem, porventura, ao prestfgio dos loci amoeni 
classicos, tao comumente seguidos nas describes da epoca, sao levados, talvez 
insensivelmente, a poda-los das frondosidades fantasticas, geralmente in- 
separaveis do antigo esquema” (23b). 64 

Although Holanda’s point would be valid for Portuguese travelers in any ter- 
ritory, he also shows that their previous knowledge about Africa and Asia would 
lead to a higher level of conviction on what they could find, as compared to 
America in the same period (222). 

Thus these points strengthen the idea of the sertao — and especially the Bra- 
zilian sertao — as a space resistant to knowledge and exploration even for the 
power of analogy of explaining these new realities in the period. They also con- 
stitute an important foundation for how it would be depicted in colonial and 
postcolonial Brazilian literature, as we saw in this article’s opening paragraphs. 


Despite its nonexhaustive character, this article has exposed some features of 
early modern bacldands’ descriptions that would remain present and have fur- 
ther developments in Brazilian thought and literature. As Janafna Amado syn- 
thesizes it, “Vivido como experiencia historica, ‘sertao’ constituiu desde cedo, 
por meio do pensamento social, uma categoria de entendimento do Brasil” 
(146). 65 Either as a primitive, traditionalistic region, as opposed to the coast, or 
as sort of core of the nation (Lima; Vasconcelos), the sertao is already defined, 
in these writings, as a remote and closed space that challenges exploration and 

Contrary to the African and Asian sertoes, the Brazilian sertao can hardly be 
seen and described. Its entrance is also understood as a sort of mobile thresh- 
old, or, to use Mendes Pinto’s metaphor, a door, but an almost closed one. This 
door hides spaces that are potentially vast and full of resources but that cannot 
be completely mapped. 

This resistance to observation and recording is present in all the writings 
here approached: what varies is the level of comfort expressed by each chroni- 

essays Victoria Saramago 

cler with it. This is when, as we have seen, there seems to be a tendency in writ- 
ings about the Americas to avoid assertions in a direct discourse and to express 
doubts concerning the backhands. As I tried to show in the first pages of this 
article, such devices, which usually reaffirm a quality of mystery and unreach- 
ableness, can be seen throughout the subsequent centuries and have their role 
in the formation of a literary tradition so influenced by travel accounts to the 
interior as the Brazilian one , 66 fascinated as it is by what Caminha defined as 
that which is beyond the bush. 


1. “Our literature, by focusing on the interior, develops as if it didn’t emerge from a 
country with an eight-thousand-kilometer coast. It’s as though the Portuguese turned 
their backs to the continent while launching themselves to the sea, whereas the Brazil- 
ians turned their backs to the sea while directing their questions to the interior.” 

2. “The backlands will become beach and the beach will become sertao.” 

3. “Uncharted waters” 

4. “Vast backlands” 

5. “Deep backlands” 

6. “One must leave the backlands! But one only leaves the backlands by taking charge 
of them from inside . . . Now I’ve lost. I’m imprisoned.” 

7. “All who dare to mount the backlands don’t manage to control the reins for more 
than a few paces, for the sly backlands becomes a tiger beneath the saddle.” 

8. For more examples of the sertao in Brazilian literature, see Teles, “O lu(g)ar dos 

9. “Inland expeditions” 

10. “The backlands are not a materiality of earthly surface, but a symbolic reality: a 
geographic ideology.” 

11. For the symbolic force of the sertao in early modern chroniclers in Brazil, see 
Mader, “O vazio: O sertao no imaginario da colonia nos seculos XVI e XVII.” 

12. For further discussion on the etymology of the word, see Ferreira, “Urn longe 
perto: Os segredos do sertao da terra.” 

13. “It was used to name vast interior areas inside the recently conquered territories, 
about which little or nothing was known.” 

14. “The city is mostly surrounded by the sea, which affords sufficient protection, 
and the tiny extension facing the backlands couldn’t have offered better defense.” Unless 
otherwise noted, the italics for all the quotations in this article are mine. 

15 . “Three villages that were well inside the backlands” 

16. “The trail was going against the backlands.” 


17. “Esta gente traz umas cabagas grandes em que levam do mar para o sertao agua 
salgada.” (20). [“These people bring some large gourds in which they take salt water 
from the sea to the bacldands.”] 

18. “The vicinity of the backlands” 

19. “In the interior of the backlands” 

20. “At the core of the backlands” 

21. “Seven leagues from this city [Iuda] through the backlands there is the cursed 
house ofMeca, where the moors go on their pilgrimages.” 

22. “In scale, it’s almost seven hundred leagues at the coast, by 160 in width in the 

23. For instance, “pelo sertao deste rio ha muito pau-brasil” (68). [“In the backlands 
of this river there is a lot of Brazil-wood.”] 

24. “The province of Brazil is situated beyond the equinoctial line in the south, [ . . . ] 
and this line courses through the backlands of the province for approximately 45 degrees.” 

25. “They spread themselves within 21 fathoms in the backlands.” 

26. “They do not spread inside the backlands more than half a league to one league.” 

27. For this reason, I am not going to approach in this text the important inland 
journey undertaken by Pedro Teixeira and registered in his Rel aciones (1610). As the text 
was written in Spanish, during the Iberian Union, it uses terms such as tierra (land) and 
interior (interior), but not sertao. 

28. “An emptiness replete of images built with existing elements of the [Portuguese] 

29. “Some of them are born in the interior of the backlands.” 

30. “And they are not found except far into the backlands.” 

31. “Woods and swamps spread [ . . . ] over the backlands infinitely.” 

32. “[It happens that the indigenous people] get themselves inside the backlands.” 

33. “Entering into the backlands” 

34. “Outside the backlands” 

3 5 . “The exterior of the sertao” 

36. “The backlands’ door” 

37. “The groves are very high and large and endless, and I do not doubt that there are 
many birds in these backlands!” 

38. “From the sea the backlands seemed to be huge because as far as the eye could 
see there was only land and woods, so it seemed a very extensive land.” 

39. “Then they fled in the direction of the backlands.” 

40. “There is a lot of gold that comes from the backlands.” 

41. “At one day’s journey from this port of Judah into the backlands lies the great city 


essays Victoria Saramago 

42. “And the king is always in the bacldands.” 

43. “Through [Xaer’s] bacldands the whole area is inhabited by rustic people.” 

44. “From this city of Champanel against the bacldands there is another much larger 

45. “Against the bacldands.” It is important to notice that going contra does not 
mean that the sertao is a sort of antagonist of opponent, as a modern understanding 
might suggest. It refers basically to the act of going to the encounter of something, or 
in the direction of something. 

46. “The bacldands of the land” 

47. “And these are the ones from inside the bacldands.” 

48. “That nevertheless they entered into the backlands” 

49. “He left the lands of the backlands and came to search the ports.” 

50. “A city located at 140 leagues’ distance into the backlands” 

51. “One of them was absent, disappeared in the backlands.” 

52. “Inside the backlands” 

53. “In the same place as these Moorish sites, entering into the backlands, there is 
the great kingdom of Prester John, called Abexim by the Moors, whose lands are very 
large and beautiful. It has many people and many nearby kingdoms subjected to it, that 
are under its rule and governance.” 

54. “In this whole land there is a lot of gold that comes from inside the backlands of 
the great kingdom of Abexim, that is Prester John’s land.” 

55. “It seems to me” 

56. “I doubt that” 

57. “[...] the whole land that we are considering to be Sofala is an extensive re- 
gion, ruled by a prince named Benomotapa, and surrounded by two river branches as if 
it were an island. These rivers come from the most astounding lake in the whole land of 
Africa [...]. Of which we can say that this great lake is closer to our West ocean than to 
the East one, according to Ptolemy.” 

58. “[...] take a lot of gold that originates in it. [ . . . ] from this river Cuame 
through the backlands to the Cabo das Correntes there is an excellent land; temperate, 
wholesome, cool, fertile of everything that grows there.” 

59. “From the sea the backlands seemed to be huge because as far as the eye could 
see there was only land and woods, so it seemed a very extensive land. So far we could 
not discover whether there is gold or silver in it, neither did we see anything of metal or 
iron, but the land itself has cool and mild breezes, as those we found in Entre-Douro- 

60. “This Santa Cruz Province, besides being so fertile as I say, is wealthy in all the 
necessary supplies for human life, and certainly it is also rich, there being much gold and 



silver in it, for which we have great hopes. The way by which we discovered and con- 
firmed this was through the indigenous people.” 

61. “A long strand of white beads, that seemed to be made of seed pearls” 

62. Some examples exposed by Buarque de Holanda are the legend of the Lagoa 
Dourada [Golden Lagoon] or a hypothetic geographical closeness between Brazil’s east- 
ern coast and the silver mines of Peru. 

63. “Almost excludes surprise” 

64. “If they seem to accept here and there unbelievable, fabulous news about the 
backlands’ secrets, they usually do it with discrete reticence. [ . . . ] Thus when they by 
chance yield to the prestige of classical loci amoeni, so frequently adopted in the period’s 
descriptions, they are carried away, perhaps without sensing it, and cut them free of the 
fantastic branches, generally inseparable from the old model.” 

65. “Lived as historical experience, ‘backlands’ has long constituted a category of 
understanding in Brazil, byway of social thought.” 

66. For an important contribution to this topic, see Siissekind, 0 Brasil nao e lonye 


Amado, Janafna. “Regiao, sertao, nagao.” Estudos Histdricos 8.15 (1995): 145-151. 

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Caminha, Pero Vaz de. A carta de Per 0 Vaz de Caminha. Rio de Janeiro: Agir, 1965. 

Cardim, Fernao. Tratados da terra eyente do Brasil. 2nd ed. Sao Paulo; Rio de Janeiro; 

Recife; Porto Alegre: Companhia Editora Nacional, 1939. 

Castanheda, Fernao Lopes de. Histo'ria do descobrimento e conquista da India pelos Portuyueses. 

Books 3 and 5. Lisbon: Typographia Rollandiana, 1833. 

Cortesao, Armando. A suma oriental de tome' pires e 0 Iiuro de Francisco Rodriyues. Coimbra: 

Por Ordem da Universidade, 1978. 

da Cunha, Euclides. Os sertoes. Sao Paulo: Atelie Editorial, Imprensa Oficial do Estado, 
Arquivo do Estado, 2002. 

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Sociedade, 44-55. Sao Paulo: USP/FFLCH/DTLLC, 1996. 

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colonizafdo do Brasil. Sao Paulo: Companhia Editorial Nacional, 1969. 

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identidade nacional. Rio de Janeiro: IUPERJ/Revan, 1999. 

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seculos XVI e XVII.” MA thesis, Pontificia Universidade Catolica do Rio de Janeiro, 

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do Brasil: Cinco ensaios, uma proposta e uma critica, 87-101. Sao Paulo: Annablume, 


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. A History of Mozambique. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995. 

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da Casa do Estudante do Brasil, 1953. 

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Companhia das Letras, 2006. 

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victoria saramago is a PhD candidate in the Department of Iberian and Latin 
American Cultures at Stanford University. Her publications include the book 0 duplo do pair 
Ofilho e afic 0 o de Cristovao Tezza (Ed. E Realiza^oes, 2013), and the article “Mortos e pre- 
sentes: As ultimas obras de Machado de Assis e Ingmar Bergman” (Machado de Assis em 
Linha, 2011). Her current research focuses on a material dimension ofmimesis in the works 
of Joao Guimaraes Rosa and Juan Rulfo. She can be reached at saramago(a) 



Translated by Alexander Rezende Luz 

Maria Jose Silveira. 

Paulkeia de mil dentes : All the Injustice We Need 

The largest and richest city in South America has been a temptation as well as a 
source of literary inspiration since the modernist explosion of 1922. Hundreds 
of poems, short stories, novels, and plays have attempted to re-create the human 
atmosphere of Sao Paulo, although few have managed to complete the task so suc- 
cessfully as the novelist Maria Jose Silveira. Pauliceia de mil dentes (Paulkeia with a 
Thousand Teeth) , her sixth novel, once again shows her wisdom as an extraordinary 
narrator, which could be observed since her debut book, but now she also uses 
new creative components mobilized to face the endeavor. Being both an overflight 
and a dive, the novel is a work of quiet stylistic maturity, which gave the author 
ammunition to delve into the stomach of the metropolis and fly over its polluted 
areas without falling into cliches, or into the opportunistic fragmentation that 
masks narrative weaknesses, and without being only made of broad strokes that 
would turn her rhapsody into a mere blur, an out-of-focus photograph. I begin by 
calling attention to these constituent aspects of the work because Sao Paulo has 
often been victimized by these less noble features, almost always presented with 
the veneer of modernity. Pauliceia de mil dentes is on the same level as Mario de An- 
drade’s verses, Joao Antonio’s short stories, or Ignacio de Loyola Brandao’s prose. 

Something terrible (for the poor) and wonderful (for the rich) has happened 
to Sao Paulo over the last fifty years. When choosing Sao Paulo as a character, 
the author had no alternative but to accept the absurdity of her choice. She ini- 
tially decided to dive into the belly of the metropolis, with its inhabitants who 
are about to lose their minds, who suffer nervous breakdowns due to false illu- 
sions, who are overtaken by the vertigo of the daily frustrations that lead them 
to the brink of suicide. Each character comes into play as if they had stepped 
into a proving ground where they receive their baptism of fire, burning quickly 
in great turmoil. None of them have the full view of their own existence and they 
all ignore that in that belly even the initial promises fail to mature because diges- 
tion devours any vitality or desire for innovation. Here and there this inexorable 
fate seems to be denied by a simpler soul, but it is soon crushed by time, ethical 
crisis, and the urban apocalypse. 



Nevertheless, on a whim, the author makes the texture of these existences 
through the unveiling of an urban mind that comprehends this same scenario, 
that is, who is familiar with that womb — hence the feeling that the narrative is 
also a flyover. A Dionysian spirit takes ownership of those lives, and they shine 
in the midst of their failures. Failed sons, failed mothers, failed artists, failures, 
failures, failures. The terrible thing that has happened to Sao Paulo prevents full 
victory. It is a nightmare repeating all the time that we live in a process of self- 
disintegration which is the psychosis of our consumerist times. When these 
creatures — which make up the multifaceted face of the metropolis — soar, they 
traverse the narrative space in which its contradictory pieces of life are the only 
stable equilibrium in this unstable navigation. The Pauliceia, however, has a 
thousand teeth to devour paradoxes. 

This novel, in its almost perfect way of narrating, not afraid to recount chaos, 
leads the reader to see the true spirit of the metropolis and what it hides in its 
labyrinths of lives so lovingly presented by the author, as if in midst of so many 
lives torn apart one could still see glimpses of humanity, of pathos and of poetry, 
which is what it is worth recording even when hope is no more than a dispersing 
cloud on the horizon. 

Pauliceia de mil dentes is a novel with an admirable moral in these times of vir- 
tual nihilism, of fetishism for alleged changes that are in fact the result of immo- 
bility. At a time when many authors contemplate their own navel and wash their 
hands of the life that slips away in blood and burnt flesh, this novel dares to go 
into the streets, and does it in good spirits. It dares to look at a metropolis with- 
out neglecting anything, especially those creatures which played to win and even- 
tually lost. Maria Jose Silveira, however, does not want to propose any creed for 
our interesting times, much less say everything there is to know about Sao Paulo, 
since the narrative itself, when closing, confesses that ours are times of frighten- 
ing abysses. Yet on the asphalt of the metropolis we have all the injustices we need. 

mArcio souza is one of the most acclaimed and internationally acknowledged writ- 
ers of Brazilian contemporary literature. He is the author of fundamental novels trans- 
lated into several languages as well as on important essays on many aspects of Brazilian 
culture. Among his many titles are Galvez — imperador do acre (1976); Mad Maria (1980); 
0 brasileiro voador (1985); Breve historia da Amazonia (1992); Teatro completo — Vols. 1, 2, and 
3 (1997); Lealdade (1997); Silvino Santos, 0 cineasta do cido da borracha (1999); and Desordem 
(2001). He can be reached at marcio_souza(a)argo. 


Bruno Carvalho. 

Porous City: A Cultural History of Rio de Janeiro 

As the title of Carvalho’s book implies, porosity is a vital concern in understand- 
ing Rio de Janeiro and her history. To get away from the easy conceptualization of 
Rio as a divided city — that of wealthy high-rises and poverty-stricken favelas — 
Carvalho adopts porosity as a way of understanding the Cidade Nova (the New 
City), one of the city’s most symbolic neighborhoods. Fundamentally, Carvalho 
makes more complex the oversimplified binary of the “two Rios,” two easily 
separable and noninteracting entities: center and periphery, black and white, 
asfalto and morro. Such dualisms often permeate works on the city, but such sep- 
aration is, for Carvalho, too formulaic, especially in a city where “the quickest 
way from A to B is rarely a straight line” (14). The mixing and interacting within 
a context of socioeconomic disparity is central to Rio’s vitality and strongly in- 
fluenced the role the city — and specifically the Cidade Nova — played in the con- 
struction of Brazilian cultural practices. Porous City, drawing on cultural sources 
as well as data, delves deep into one of Rio’s geographic and spiritual centers, a 
place where porosity was most prominent and one that “was instrumental to the 
making of Brazilian culture” (xii). It was, for example, the birthplace of samba. 

“Porosity” is a term that Carvalho develops from Walter Benjamin’s 1925 
essay on the city of Naples, in which Benjamin said that “porosity is the inex- 
haustible law of the life of this city, reappearing everywhere” (10). 1 The term 
implies a spatial quality of interaction and dialogue between distinct spaces, and 
Carvalho posits the Cidade Nova as an emblematic place of porosity. He chooses 
the Cidade Nova to examine in depth because that neighborhood’s “history and 
its representations provide a key to help us unlock some of the city’s dilemmas” 
(11). The Cidade Nova, Carvalho argues, serves as a microcosm of the rest of the 
city, and — in many ways — of the nation as a whole. There is little book-length 
scholarship about this fascinating and vital neighborhood, and he draws on 
understudied or overlooked sources. In this sense, Carvalho’s study marks an 
important contribution in understanding Brazil’s cultural capital. 

While the concept of porosity is spatial, Carvalho adopts a (chronological) 
historical approach to deepen our vision of the neighborhood over the past two 



hundred years. Indeed, the subtitle, “A Cultural History of Rio de Janeiro (from 
the 1810s Onward),” sets up the structure in which each chapter provides both 
a distinct snapshot of the neighborhood in its urban context and an account of 
its evolution. Broadly speaking, each chapter develops a period in the history of 
the neighborhood, with the dominant focus on the period up until the 1940s. 
Perhaps his study should be considered limited for this reason. He relegates the 
treatment of the neighborhood in the last sixty years to his conclusion, which 
brings the story of the area up to the present day but without much detail, with 
only occasional passing references in other chapters. It is, in effect, a story of 
the life and death of a neighborhood, as though its story completely ended with 
certain developments in the 1940s. A more specific subtitle or a more thorough 
development of the decline and decadence of the neighborhood in recent times 
would help the reader further comprehend the importance of the area in the 
carioca imaginary both in the past and up to the present day. Indeed, the current 
moment is of particular intrigue as the city prepares to host the Olympics and 
the neighborhood is again the center of fierce change. 

Porous City draws on a multitude of sources, including plays, novels, short 
stories, poems, music, paintings, and essays, as well as records, censuses, plans, 
letters, newspapers, and magazines. Nonetheless, the point of departure for al- 
most every chapter is literature. In the first chapter, which focuses on Rio as the 
imperial capital of the Portuguese empire and the ramifications of that shift, 
Carvalho dissects Manuel Antonio de Almeida’s Memorias de um sa rgento de mili- 
cias (1852, but set earlier). Almeida’s text deals with “how this newly inhabited 
zone would function within the lettered cartographies and cultural geography — 
as a space perceived as marginal while paradoxically being in the geographic 
center” (20). In this case, Carvalho makes a clear distinction between “here” and 
“there,” with “here” being the Old City (the Rua de Ouvidor and Quintana, in 
particular) and “there” being the New City. The Cidade Nova is represented as 
something “vague and distant” (22), a tendency that changes in the literature 
later in the century. 

Carvalho’s second chapter, “A Master on the Periphery of the Periphery,” fo- 
cuses on Machado de Assis and a return to the Rua de Ouvidor — the center of 
Rio’s lettered old city. During the late nineteenth century and into the belle epo- 
que, even though the Cidade Nova was at the center of the city and was home to 
thousands, “it would seldom appear as a central place in the literature of the 
period” (50). Early Machado, Carvalho argues, seemed to participate in “the flat- 

reviews To m Wi nte rbottom 

tened notion of a divided Rio de Janeiro” (55) — simply seeing the city as two 
cities — before developing a more complex portrayal of the city that has estab- 
lished Machado as a great author. Machado played on those very dichotomies, 
aware of his audience and his surroundings, as well as being a reader himself of 
the complex social situation. Carvalho, in the most detailed and comprehensive 
chapter, deals with this idea magnificently. His work (Carvalho focuses on Os 
bravos, 1885) “attempts to bridge not only the divide between Cidade Nova and 
Lapa Street, but also to the prestigious Ouvidor Street of so much of his public, 
not to mention his publishing house. He seems to act as a mediator, then, be- 
tween the stigmatized and those who stigmatized” (66). This delicacy of social 
perception was one of Machado’s most intriguing elements, and Carvalho con- 
ceptualizes it beautifully within the framework of porosity. 

In subsequent chapters, the point of departure again focuses on the literary: 
on Alufsio Azevedo, Lima Barreto, Graga Aranha, Joao do Rio, and the poet 
Murilo Mendes. In each, Carvalho demonstrates how “porosity” occupies an 
increasingly central position in the cultural representation of the neighborhood, 
even if the dominant perception of the city was of division. The discourse of “the 
idea — or at least the hypothesis — that there are ‘two Rios de Janeiro’” emerged 
in the early twentieth century as the Cidade Nova itself became a border, “be- 
tween Rio the capital of Brazil and ‘another city’ altogether, a semi-suburban 
milieu of barefooted blacks and of a more morose, unhurried rhythm” (80). In 
the associated cultural production, there is a clear transition from the “there” of 
Almeida’s treatment, through Machado’s vision, and then to Joao do Rio (who 
“positions himself carefully as an outsider”) and Lima Barreto, who places Ci- 
dade Nova “at the center of a narrative [and] as its subject” (95) in Numa e a Ninja. 
The literary representations Carvalho explores — beginning with Machado — and 
the cultural manifestations in the many other sources he discusses (radio, pop- 
ular music, and journalism, among others) contradict the easy designation of a 
binary city. Even though the Cidade Nova gradually “became central to particu- 
lar lettered cartographies,” as Caravalho puts it, in the final chapters he shows 
the demise of the neighborhood under Vargas, when it “was largely obliterated 
from actual cultural geography” (202). Its end was somewhat abrupt. 

Over the course of two hundred years, spaces of “mixture” were stymied 
as the governing elites sought to “drive out those aspects of fluidity and inter- 
change that paradoxically marked the formation of Brazil’s dominant cultures 
and which were frequently concentrated on the Cidade Nova and similar spaces” 


(156). Therefore, porosity is vital to the cultural essence of Rio de Janeiro and 
Brazil and negates the idea that the city is divided: the two (or more) parts of 
the erroneously named divided city are interrelated, linked, and implicitly con- 
nected. Unlike other studies of the city, and to its merit, Carvalho’s work demon- 
strates how this porosity was increasingly present in cultural works (primarily 
literature) and how the Cidade Nova has had a palimpsestic quality to it ever 
since the imperial capital moved to Rio de Janeiro. Carvalho also recognizes that 
porosity denotes, in a more traditional way of thinking about the formulation of 
Brazilian culture, the ability to “absorb elements from the most diverse tradi- 
tions” (13) and thus to produce an inherently hybrid culture. Most importantly, 
Carvalho does not romanticize the neighborhood: at one point Cidade Nova 
became known as Little Africa and also welcomed many Jews and other immi- 
grants, yet “one must resist the temptation to paint an idyllic haven of multicul- 
tural ethnic pluralism” (107). Therein lies the intrigue with the Cidade Nova: it 
was a seemingly constantly evolving neighborhood. Most famously, the Cidade 
Nova and its central square, Praga Onze, was the “cradle of samba,” but with 
the construction of Avenida Presidente Vargas, the square was razed, “scraped 
from Rio de Janeiro’s landscape by the same government responsible for using 
the musical form [samba] as an instrument of national unification” (174). The 
Cidade Nova was a “crucial crossroads” for understanding Rio and Brazil’s cul- 
tural history, but “it was no such thing after the 1940s” (198), when it effectively 
ceased to exist: “Today, any sense of the Cidade Nova as an actual place seems to 
have vanished” (185). It would be interesting to hear a lot more about the “pe- 
riod of accelerated decadence” when the “Cidade Nova never recovered its pro- 
tagonism of Rio de Janeiro” (192), a period that Carvalho deals with only briefly 
in this work. 

Once again, the Cidade Nova is making headlines in Rio de Janeiro as it re- 
develops in preparation for the 2016 Olympics. Carvalho’s study provides a very 
timely and relevant breakdown of the neighborhood, delving deep into its his- 
tory and recognizing its centrality — both geographically and spiritually — as a 
vital space in the carioca and Brazilian imaginary. The long time frame that Car- 
valho deals with sometimes feels a little thin and unspecific, and the chapters 
are reduced to providing snapshots of the neighborhood and the city at certain 
historical moments, but the essence of contradiction and complexity of the city is 
aptly and importantly captured. As Carvalho mentions in the preface, Rio is often 
known for its “enchantment,” particularly from the foreign observer’s perspec- 


reviews Tom Winterbottom 

tive. As a carioca who resides and wrote most of this book away from the city, it 
is about trying to see the city from the outside in a process of “re-enchantment” 
(ix) with his own city. More importantly, the book not only “reaffirms the extent 
to which the Cidade Nova’s past and future continue to be critical to the city” 
(xv); it also dispels the oversimplistic (but still very prominent) understanding 
of Rio as a city divided into two with little coexistence. Carvalho’s treatment of 
the Cidade Nova makes it clear that such direct separation is impossible and 
that the interaction between the two sides of the coin, between the A and the B, 
are vital in Brazil’s past, present, and future. 


i. Walter Benjamin, Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings (New York: 
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978), 168. 

tom wi nte rbottom is a PhD student at Stanford University in the Iberian and Latin 
American Cultures department. His research focuses on the cultural study of urban 
centers, particularly in Brazil and Argentina. He is writing his dissertation on cultural 
representations of contemporary Rio de Janeiro and the effect of the Olympics. He can 
be reached at 



Patricia Portela. 

“If I tell you stories all the time I do not disappear.” 

— Scheherazade, Flatland (Portela) 

Patricia Portela is an unclassifiable Portuguese writer, performer, media artist, 
producer, and stage designer who creates and manipulates language in a vari- 
ety of multidisciplinary projects that include performance, installation, theater, 
movement, and video. Her playful, audacious, and speculative texts narrate 
a hyper-real world where words spill from the printed page onto screens and 
from audio and virtual platforms to the eyes and ears of audiences. Unrelent- 
ingly inventive, her creations require audiences to question the meaning of lan- 
guage and its relationships to narrating reality. 

To discuss Portela in traditional literary contexts would be to ignore the par- 
ticularity of her inventiveness and miss its provocative richness. Rather, her writ- 
ing must be considered in the wider arena of interdisciplinary, contemporary art 
that integrates multiple practices and aesthetics on a project-by-project basis. 
Portela works on international stages, and as a result a number of her texts are 
available in English. She has also published several books in Portuguese. In 
theaters, public gardens, on virtual media, or in books, after more than a decade 
of original creations, inventive language and unusual storytelling are Patricia 
Portela’s enduring constants, attracting international coproductions, festival 
programming, and awards. 

As part of the generation born in Portugal’s mid-1970s “Carnation Revolu- 
tion” period, she is a fascinating example of a New Wave of contemporary Por- 
tuguese creators shaping current artistic scenes. With regard to her training in 
stage design and affinity for the open-ended parameters of contemporary dance, 
she has called herself a “choreographing scenographer.” However, her focus 
includes imagining stage space for text and combining movement, visual art, 


The text on Patricia Portela is part of a series of portraits of four contemporary Portu- 
guese writers with support of Portugal’s Institute Camoes and the Quebec Arts Council. 

reviews Richard Simas 

theatrics, cyberspace, and words in multiple presentation platforms. Precisely, it 
is in mobilizing the synergetic movement, rhythm, and essence of each of these 
elements that makes her unique to both the performing and literary milieus. 

With a team of collaborators, Portela explores the possibilities that technol- 
ogy affords in performance. “Our virtual space is just the building of a big book. 
We like this kind of mixing, the simultaneity of different layers . . . technology 
as a book. The book was our first technology. That's why we produce all the 
things we produce . . . because we can write and this was one of the important 
reasons for using a book and not another surface.” More recently, political, so- 
cial, and environmental issues have become primary subjects in her work (Ho r- 
tus and 2084). To say one must see and hear Portela’s texts in order to experience 
them is no extravagance. In surprising audio and visual dimensions she fabri- 
cates scenography from language and as a result twists its very essence as mean- 
ing and narrative. 

Patricia Portela agrees that “due to the historical, political, and social context 
following the end of the dictatorship, there exists a new generation of writers in 
Portugal who show different perspectives, using vocabulary and literary struc- 
tures that are more cosmopolitan.” She is exemplary of the contemporary artist 
who studies, works and lives fluidly in and out of her native country, uses multiple 
languages, and identifies more with a broad range of current artistic aesthetics 
than anything specific to her cultural heritage. 

She studied set and costume design at Lisbon’s Faculty of Theatre and Film 
and then gained experience working with independent theater and dance com- 
panies, mainly as a costume designer or dramaturge, and as a decorator for sev- 
eral short films. She moved on to do a master’s degree in scenography arts at 
the Faculty of Theatre in Utrecht and Central St. Martins College of Art, and the 
European Film College in Denmark, specializing in sound design, scriptwriting, 
and documentary. 

In Utrecht she was given the first opportunity to connect movement, text, and 
stage space in a single project rather than remaining limited to a single disci- 
pline. Surprisingly, the link between different disciplines emerged primarily 
through writing and images. It was also here that Portela became enamored 
with the “dramaturgy of space and small, portable things.” 

Starting in 1999 Patricia Portela began gaining attention and prizes for the- 
ater work, and in 2003 she received an Acarte/Gulbenkian Performing Arts Spe- 



cial Mention for Wasteband. The first in a trilogy, Flatland 1, won a special mention 
for its dramaturgy, text, and use of space in 2006 by Portugal’s Association of 
Critics. Banquet, a dinner-ambiance-performance about cloning and immortal- 
ity, was considered one of the top ten shows in Belgium by critics in 2007, and 
in 2009 she received two-year funding from Portugal’s Ministry of Culture to 
develop her research on transdisciplinary projects. She moves between homes 
in Antwerp and Lisbon, from where she directs her research/production com- 
pany called Prado and collaborates with numerous researchers, program de- 
signers, and visual and sound artists. 

Returning to the question of what distinguishes contemporary creators from 
the past, Portela comments, “Every generation has its own questions and themes, 
its fantasies that come from preceding generations. It’s normal that some ques- 
tions are recurring and others are replaced by more immediate preoccupations.” 
She questions interpretations of reality, satirizes political discourse, and is play- 
fully polemic and provocative. Such perspectives share deep literary traditions, 
but she articulates them in a singular manner using technology. Further, she 
adds, “The last ten years have seen the emergence of new and promising writers 
that could leave their mark on the period.” 

Because of the experimental nature of her work and the fact that published 
books are generally not her priority, one wonders whether Portela feels mar- 
ginal with regard to contemporary Portuguese writing. “I can’t say that I feel on 
the margin. I am still living in an astonishing period, but my primary occupa- 
tion is performance. Literature and its environment are very recent for me. How- 
ever, I think that poets are the ones truly on the margin, the real radical and ex- 
perimental writers. With regards to prose, there are emerging writers who are 
respected and read with admiration. This all contributes to a strong literary gen- 
eration and reinforces everyone individually.” She has published four books, the 
last two with the renowned Editorial Caminho. Her publications “Odilia” in 
2007 and “Para cima e nao para Norte . . .” in 2008 were considered a new rev- 
elation and style in Portuguese literature by critic Miguel Real in the reputed 
Jornal de Letras. 

Portela’s Creations: “A book is a surface for words” 


Muses are born between the little finger, the heart, and the human brain. ( . . . ) If we 
look very carefully we can notice that they have the shape of a plant or a leaf. They 

reviews Richard Simas 

navigate in a very organized and active way through the brain and they communicate 
through highly complex systems, by propagating electric signals and primary chemical 

— Odilia 

Portela the experimenter appears obsessed with keeping language mobile, a 
seemingly contrary role to what is routinely expected of narrative descriptions 
and fixations of reality. Visually and aurally, her words are often in a state of flux, 
shifting positions, playing tricks, contradicting, and transfiguring themselves. 
Reading Portela slowly, pondering meaning, or beginning again is fruitless 
because the text will have possibly changed or disappeared as speed is a con- 
sciously integrated element in her inventions. A tour through Patricia Portela’s 
projects offers a view of her hyperliterary imagination. 

The recent site-specific sound installation Hortus (2012) explores the tension 
between the ideals of nature and capitalist market economics. Portela’s narra- 
tive framework “situates the sound garden in an environment of contemplation 
and reflection about how we can make the balance between man and nature 
shift again by rewriting and re-understanding our relationship with real-time 
and natural conditions.” Visitors are invited to explore a garden where a sensor 
network, made by longtime collaborator and co-creator Christoph de Boeck, 
measures the dynamics of wind and light harvested by the plants during their 
photosynthetic process and translates them into bird sounds. Human move- 
ment in the garden provokes a financial algorithm similar to the ones used in a 
speculative economic market that interprets the variations of the received data 
and transforms and remaps the natural garden soundscape to which plants 
seem most profitable in that split second. When visitors decide to stop, to read, 
or to reflect, the original sound design for the garden returns, reflecting only the 
readings of natural energy. Simultaneously, a network of microstories loops in 
electronic paper botanical displays, comparing definitions of common terms 
in the economic, political, or natural worlds, such as “growth,” “beauty,” “re- 
generation,” and “time.” 

Accompanying Hortus in the “Utopian Salon,” the lecture-performance 2084, 
the title an apparent takeoff on George Orwell’s satirical novel 1984, makes a 
similar “technological” metaphor from the relationship between nature and so- 
ciety. Portela presents two separate reflections about possible futures for a dying 
civilization, blending citations from President Obama and Mao Zedong in her 



own text. Each presentation ends with a reading and debate led by a pair of in- 
vited guests from such areas as science, politics, and philosophy. Audiences 
are invited to “exercise and practice Utopia,” rather than be presented with a 
model, and to “imagine the impossible” by adding suggestions or themes to the 

The Private Collection of Acacio Nobre (2010) is a staged fiction documentary 
based on a trunk full of texts discovered in Portela’s grandparents’ house. Nobre 
was a controversial, avant-garde Portuguese writer and public figure who suf- 
fered from aphasia. 

With elaborate lighting and giant screens that reveal texts typed live on stage, 
Portela’s performance documents and explores Nobre’s persona via the discov- 
ered letters. 

The Flatland Trilogy (Flatland 1, 2, and 3) was created between 2004 and 2006 
and is a whimsical, outrageous, and surreal three-part adventure. The first piece 
is a virtual performance for one astronaut/salesman, one musician, and one 
PowerPoint, subtitled “a performance about waiting, wishing, and wasting.” 
Tongue in cheek, Portela notes that the project is “based on the coincidental fact 
that both a Chinese ritual and scientific theories prove that the moon will soon 
fall on a beach full of frogs on the exact date we perform.” She leads a faux sci- 
entific discussion around a table where performers and spectators are seated 
and vertical images are projected on a screen. 

Flatland tells the story of a Flatman as he discovers that his life is missing 
a third dimension. We follow the superhero’s reflections through worlds of bi- 
dimensionality until he finds out that existence in the 3D world is possible only 
if spectators are looking at him. Elated with the discovery but unhappy with his 
dependency, Flatman organizes a strategy to conquer his tridimensional immor- 
tality. The project uses a detective story format and has multiple presentation 
formats: audio, visual projection, and printed book. 

Flatland II, subtitled “to be is to be seen,” is a performance in which “specta- 
tors are kidnapped and taken to an unknown place where a nonstop multimedia 
show presents many different entertainment options, all offered at the speed of 
a click, including salvation by a pizza delivery man.” Momentarily, the world 
obeys a parallel construction of the world itself. Polemical and probing, in this 
final installment of the trilogy, theater is terrorism and terrorism becomes the- 
ater, thus creating fiction in real time and risking bold statements about the very 
act of performance. “Before you’re a victim, you’re an audience,” says Portela. 

reviews Richard Simas 

Exploring the very notion of books and language as moving objects, Para cima 
e nao para norte (Above, Not to the North) is a book- format extension of Flatland 1. 
Like Flatman’s desired life, the book is three-dimensional, with words undulat- 
ing on the printed page, sentences running off edges, circling, and recomposing 
in an animated circus of print acrobatics. Pausing in what seems like a literary 
madhouse romp, the reader wonders what mischief continues within once the 
book is closed. 

Odilia (2006) also exists as book and performance. Portela calls it “a journey 
through the house of ideas and impressions, like still lives in the brain. A laby- 
rinth (...) as if we could lose ourselves in our heads.” Perhaps in the persona 
of Odilia we sense the writer’s narrative voice best and glimpse her comic na- 
ture: “There are the normal muses and the confused muses! . . . They are regu- 

I larly naked or semi-naked with semi transparent dresses and are responsible for 
romantic delirium and the Music of the universe . . . The confused muses are 
all Odflias.” 

Says Portela, “I would love to make a book that could be read in many direc- 
tions and could have several possibilities of order, but both Odilia and Para cima 
can be read from beginning to end. I would say I never know what to expect when 
I open a book and all I want is to be fascinated by what it wants to tell me ... If 
people can expect that of my books I will be very pleased, but that is one of the 
most difficult things for books to be: fascinating and expectedly unexpected!” 
In earlier work she used speed and information overload as dramaturgical 
tools and narrative strategies, “text and images sometimes running so fast that 
it is impossible to catch all of it . . . It’s no longer an information, it’s more an 
environment.” Currently Portela, the probing contemporary Darwinian and ac- 
tivist artist is probing issues related to nature and survival. She is, among her 
generation of contemporary Portuguese creators, a treasure to be discovered. 
Patricia Portela, images, videos, texts, information: 

richard simas is a freelance writer living in Montreal with a background in litera- 
ture and the contemporary performing arts, particularly contemporary music. His fiction 
and arts journalism has been published widely in Europe and in North America, includ- 
ing in the Journey Prize anthology. He has also won a Fiddlehead Fiction Prize. The inter- 
view with Gon^alo M. Tavares is part of a recently completed project titled “A New Wave 
of Portuguese Writing: Four Contemporary Portuguese Writers.” He can be reached at 





A collection 
of original 
essays on the 
and cultural 
aspects of the 
South Atlantic, 
past and 

From 1550 until 1850 most of Brazil and Angola formed 
a system sustained by the slave trade and intercolonial 
traffic that complemented, though often in perverse 
ways, exchanges between these regions and Portugal. 
Merchants, militiamen, royal servants, and missionaries 
fostered relations between Portuguese enclaves on either 
side of the ocean. When the Brazilian slave trade ended 
in 1850, these exchanges were interrupted, but after the 
Lusophone nations of Africa gained their independence, 
direct communications and relations were reestablished 
between the two sides of the Atlantic. In the meantime, 
Brazil had become home to the largest population 
of African origin outside Africa. Today, an economic, 
linguistic, and cultural network again connects the 
different countries and peoples of the South Atlantic, a 
network broadened by the creation in 2003 of the IBSA 
(India, Brazil, and South Africa) Dialogue Forum. This latest 
volume of Portuguese Literary & Cultural Studies explores 
the historical, geopolitical, and cultural aspects of the 
South Atlantic, past and present. In addition to this 
thematic focus, this special issue features sections 
dedicated to critical essays and reviews. 

Luiz Felipe de Alencastro is emeritus professor, 
Universite de Paris-Sorbonne, and a professor at the 
Sao Paulo School of Economics-FGV. He is the author 
of O trato dos viventes: Formacdo do Brasil no atlantico 
sul, seculos XVI e XVII (2000). 


ISBN ^?A-l-^33227-bl-0